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Braves Minor League Recap: Landon Stephens walks off a Mississippi win

Stephens and Michael Soroka led wins for the upper levels

Rome Braves prospect Landon Stephens follows through on a swing after hitting a home run. Photo Credit: Mills Fitzner

It wasn’t the most exciting of days on the Atlanta Braves farm system, that is until a late charge by the Mississippi Braves led to a walk off bomb from Landon Stephens. Michael Soroka also put out a strong start, and down in the Dominican Summer League top signee Luis Guanipa continues to put up numbers.

(29-33) Gwinnett Stripers 6, (28-34) Charlotte Knights 2

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 1-4, RBI, .319/.394/.475
  • Braden Shewmake, 2B: 1-4, 2 RBI, .211/.268/.389
  • Michael Soroka, SP: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 3.92 ERA

Michael Soroka made his first start since being optioned and it went well for him as he posted one of his best games of the season in leading the Stripers to a win. Like last night’s game the Stripers found themselves on the board early, this time via Forrest Wall’s leadoff home run. Wall had a huge day at the plate with three hits and two stolen bases, the latter adding to his league lead as he stays perfect at 38 of 38 on the season. Gwinnett added a run on a sacrifice fly in the second inning but their breakout came in the fifth. Joshua Fuentes and Justin Dean each had singles to lead off the inning, and Wall made it three in a row when he bunted to load the bases. With no outs the Stripers were looking for a big inning, but after a ground out from Luke Williams scored one Vaughn Grissom struck out for the second out of the inning. Ultimately though luck struck when Braden Shewmake’s jam shot got lost in the evening sun by the Charlotte shortstop and dropped in allowing two runs to score. Grissom finally got himself on the board in the seventh inning when he blooped one into center field to score Wall.

For Michael Soroka the game got off to an inauspicious start when he allowed a leadoff single then hit the next batter. Soroka would go on to load the bases by hitting another batter with a pitch, but recorded three strikeouts in the inning to escape unscathed. Soroka avoided any trouble across the next three innings, leading into the fifth inning where he held a two-run lead. The leadoff hitter for Charlotte in the fifth reached on a bunt hit, then stole second base setting up a run scoring hit. Soroka put a fastball out of the zone on a two strike pitch, but Charlotte’s Zach Remillard reached out and came away with a half-swing line drive base hit that scored the only run off of Soroka in the game. Soroka’s command started to waver more in the sixth inning, and he got away with a couple of hard hit balls to pitch a scoreless frame and end his day. Soroka recorded 16 whiffs on the day, the majority of those coming on his slider. Charlotte hitters swung and missed at 9 of Soroka’s sliders and didn’t have a hard hit ball against it. Beau Burrows and Grant Holmes each pitched scoreless innings of relief. The only real threat came in the eighth inning with Joe Harvey on the mound. He loaded the bases and walked a run in with two outs before being pulled for Holmes who closed out the inning with no further damage.

(27-28) Mississippi Braves 4, (28-28) Biloxi Shuckers 3

Box Score

  • Jesse Franklin V, LF: 0-4, .237/.298/.434
  • Tyler Tolve, DH: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, .229/.307/.294
  • Hayden Deal, SP: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3.06 ERA
  • Victor Vodnik, RP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 3.81 ERA

Mississippi took a deficit late into this game, but their late home runs and strong bullpen outing won them the game. This game got a late start due to rain, but the Braves bats got an even later start as they recorded only three hits through the first six innings. Now trailing 3-0, they needed a rally and they got one as Biloxi left their starter in an inning too long. Tyler Tolve and Cade Bunnell each went deep to open the inning, and a Drew Campbell double ended the day of Biloxi starter Justin Jarvis. Campbell would advance to third on a wild pitch, but on a ground ball to third base he got hung up when he broke for home and was tagged out. A debatable double play in which Cal Conley appeared to very clearly beat the throw to first ended the inning and left Mississippi still trailing by a run. Regardless, the Braves bounced back the next inning when Luke Waddell drew a walk to lead off. A single from Drew Lugbauer allowed Waddell to move around to third base and bring Tyler Tolve back up to bat. Tolve grounded a routine ball to the second baseman, but with the help of a poor throw from shortstop the catcher was able to beat the throw to first place to avoid the double play and allow Waddell to tie the game. Landon Stephens ensured the end of this game would be easy, crushing his ninth home run of the season to walk the game off.

Mississippi had themselves a bullpen game to work through, and Hayden Deal was the man who got the ball first. Deal worked through the first two innings scoreless but Biloxi opened the scoring up in the third inning. The first two batters of the inning recorded doubles off of Deal, though he managed to strand the second runner and keep it a one run game. Next out of the bullpen was Coleman Huntley, who got the next five outs successfully before Alex Segal finished off the fifth inning. A throwing error from Cade Bunnell in the sixth inning ended up costing the Braves, as Segal’s control was a problem in the inning. Segal walked a batter with one out, then threw two wild pitches to score a run and move the second runner to third base. A ground out scored the second unearned run of the inning before Segal was able to get out of it. The MVP of the pitching staff has to go to Victor Vodnik, who showed one of his flashes of pure brilliance by dominating the Shuckers. Vodnik faced six batters in his relief outing, retired them all, and struck out five of those with four being swinging strikeouts. After Mississippi tied the game in the eighth they turned to Daysbel Hernandez who shut down the Shuckers in the top of the ninth inning.

(26-30) Rome Braves 0, (21-31) Hickory Crawdads 7

Box Score

  • Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., CF: 0-4, .221/.354/.359
  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-4, 2B, BB, .268/.410/.333
  • David McCabe, 3B: 1-3, .250/.344/.357
  • Tyler Owens, SP: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2.63 ERA

These lower level games were a lot uglier than our first two, and Rome’s offense was just helpless in this loss. Rome recorded three hits in the game, and they didn’t get a runner past second base until the ninth inning. With two outs in the ninth Nacho Alvarez got a double to finally get a runner in scoring position, but Adam Zebrowski struck out and the game ended in a blow out loss. In addition to not being able to score a run the position players didn’t contribute defensively either as Rome committed five errors.

Tyler Owens was the victim of two of those errors and allowed three unearned run in 1 23 innings of work. It wasn’t all the fault of the defense however, as he was the one who got himself into trouble in the second inning by allowing two hits to open the inning. It was the next batter, who reached on an error from McCabe, who would be the reason the runs went down as unearned. JJ Niekro had to relieve Owens in the second inning and allowed an inherited runner to score beforing escaping. Niekro himself allowed three runs on three hits and a walk in the third inning, which basically put the game out of reach for the floundering offense. Niekro ended up covering two more innings and Rome’s pitching staff ended on a strong note.

(27-29) Augusta GreenJackets 5, (33-23) Myrtle Beach Pelicans 7

Box Score

  • EJ Exposito, SS: 1-3, BB, .250/.365/.414
  • Justin Janas, 1B: 2-4, 2B, BB, .274/.369/.394
  • Adam Shoemaker, SP: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 5.10 ERA

If you like errors and unearned runs then the GreenJackets topped the previous game. They may have fallen one short of Rome’s error total, but they blew them away on unearned runs as all six of Adam Shoemakers runs allowed were unearned. Augusta’s offense at least gave themselves a chance to win on that side of the ball, taking an early 1-0 lead as a wild pitch in the first inning scored Justin Janas who had singled earlier in the inning. Augusta then took advantage of walks in the second inning, as with two outs they drew three of them in a row to load the bases. Bryson Worrell smacked a two run single to extend the lead to 3-0, and Janas again scored on a wild pitch to give Augusta solid lead. The game went down the toilet in the next half inning and Augusta never made a comeback. In the bottom of the third Cory Acton had a single, but was caught stealing to perhaps prevent a big inning as Augusta drew two walks following that but came away empty-handed. EJ Exposito had a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to get the game within a run, and Justin Janas followed with a double to bring up Bryson Worrell. Worrell came into this at bat having reached base in all four trips, but popped out to end the inning and Augusta’s last threat.

If a pitcher allows six unearned runs in a game typically some of that is his own fault. Adam Shoemake was no exception, as while an error in the third inning derailed his train he was the one who failed to get it back on track. Shoemaker had pitched well to that point, but after allowing a one out double a high chopper snuck past second baseman Alexander Then to score a run. The game then got away from Shoemaker as he issued a walk then with two outs gave up a two-run single and two-run home run to put Myrtle Beach on top. In the fourth inning the first batter of the inning reached on an error from Exposito, then advanced on a walk and force out before an errant throw from Nick Clarno on a stolen base attempt allowed the runner to score from third. Tyree Thompson gave the GreenJackets fantastic work in relief of Shoemaker, covering 3 13 scoreless innings to at least give the offense a chance to make a comeback. That comeback never came together and Jason Franks allowed the sole earned run of the game in the top of the ninth inning. Despite having the same number of hits as Myrtle Beach and drawing ten walks in comparison to the Pelicans four, Augusta couldn’t string together a second straight win.

(2-3) FCL Braves 4, (2-3) FCL Rays 6

Box Score

  • Douglas Glod, CF: 0-3, BB
  • Efrain Polanco, RP: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

The FCL Braves scored four runs in this game, but it was more in spite of themselves than anything as they only had two hits and struck out 15 times. Still, after a leadoff single from Robert Gonzalez in the fourth inning the walks and passed balls from the Rays mounted up allowing them to score a run and have the bases loaded. A throwing error then brought home the second run, and Luis Moreno gave the Braves a lead with a two out base hit. Braves starter Reibyn Corona allowed runs in each the first two innings, but the team combined to pitch the next four scoreless behind three scoreless innings from Albert Rivas. The Rays eventually broke through and took the lead when they scored three runs off of Giomer Diaz in the seventh inning.

(0-5) DSL Braves 3, (3-2) DSL Angels 7

Box Score

  • John Estevez, LF: 1-4, BB, RBI
  • Luis Guanipa, CF: 2-5, 2B, 2 SB, RBI

Luis Guanipa and John Estevez continue to be the only people doing anything for the DSL Braves as they fall to 0-5. The Braves fell behind when the Angels scored six runs in the first inning and from there it was pretty much just seeing how much the team’s top prospects could do. Guanipa broke through with the Braves first RBI, smacking a third inning double for his fourth extra base hit in his four games played this season. Guanipa also recorded two stolen bases in the game and it’s fair to say a 1.146 OPS, two home runs, and four stolen bases in four games is a very good way to start your career. Estevez kept pace as well with a hit and a walk and he leads the team with a 1.287 OPS in his five games played.

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