As much momentum the Rome Braves had prior to their series against the Asheville Tourists over the Memorial Day weekend, they were left grasping for what was left by the end of it.
Rome lost 4-3 to Asheville on Tuesday afternoon, wrapping up the four-game set that ended with three straight gut-wrenching defeats at the hands of the visiting Tourists.
The Braves attempted a rally in the ninth inning Tuesday but came up just short. The previous two games were decided in the ninth as well, each time with Asheville able to push across the winning run in the late stages.
Down 4-1 in their final at-bat, the Braves perked up Tuesday when Andrew Moritz hit a single into left and Greg Cullen followed with single into center. Hagen Owenby then fired a ground ball to first and outran the pitcher to reach with an infield hit.
With the bases loaded Griffin Benson dumped a double into left, scoring Moritz and Cullen and pulling Rome to within 4-3. The Braves got the winning run into scoring position with only one out but a grounder and a pop-up ended the threat and gave Asheville a series victory.
Rome came into the series having won eight of its last 11 games spanning three series, including a three-game sweep of Asheville at home two weeks ago. The Braves went from above .500 after a series-opening win to 25-27 and three games back of division-leading Charleston but remain in second place.
Pitcher Alan Rangel was tagged with the loss, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing four runs on six hits. He struck out five and walked two. Reliever Jake Higginbotham was strong out of the bullpen, throwing 2 1/3 shutout innings. He gave up one hit and struck out three with no walks.
Rangel (4-3) kept Rome in the game until a two-out rally by Asheville in the sixth inning managed to chase Rangel from the game. The Tourists got four consecutive hits in the frame, including two doubles, to take a 4-1 lead.
The Rome offense managed 12 hits but was largely held in check with runners in scoring position, going 3-for-14 in those spots and leaving 13 runners on base. The Braves had at least one baserunner in every inning but scored in only two frames.
Rome Braves fans welcomed back a familiar face during the series as catcher Hagen Owenby was transferred to the team from High-A Florida after Ricardo Rodriguez was placed on the injured list.
Owenby, who was drafted by Atlanta in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of East Tennessee State, played his first game back Sunday and was part of a three-run rally in the bottom of the first.
He then was central to a rally in the fourth when he led off with a triple to the wall in center field. Carlos Paraguate delivered a two-out single into left to score him and give the Braves their largest advantage of the day at 4-1.
Owenby finished the game at 3-for-4 with a double, triple, RBI and a run scored. He went 3-for-5 on Tuesday.
A couple of reliable bats were missing from Rome’s lineup Tuesday for different reasons as outfielders Trey Harris and Justin Dean did not play.
Harris got an off day Tuesday and was seen in the Braves’ dugout during the game, while Dean has been on the seven-day injured list since just prior to the start of the Asheville series on Saturday.
Harris, a Powder Springs native, still leads the SAL with a .366 average and has eight home runs and 12 doubles on the season to go along with 41 RBIs. He is tied for first in the league with 67 hits and is second with 35 runs.
Dean was hitting .286 with 12 doubles, four triples and three home runs on the season for the Single-A club before going on the IL. He'd driven in 20 runs while swiping 13 bases on the season. His triples rank tied for second-most in the South Atlantic League. He also ranks tied for second with 27 walks.
Rome will enjoy an off day Wednesday before opening a seven-game road trip Thursday in Hagerstown, Maryland, against the Suns. Rome will end up in Columbia, South Carolina, with a three-game stint starting Monday.