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Braves Minor League Recap: Grissom, Malloy star with home runs for Rome

Vaughn Grissom and Justyn-Henry Malloy have been the centerpieces of a surging Rome team.

Photo Credit: Mills Fitzner

Atlanta Braves prospects delivered a number of big performances on Sunday afternoon, headlined by a big team performance in Rome. Vaughn Grissom and Justyn-Henry Malloy were the offensive stars of that game, while over in Mississippi Jared Shuster delivered the best pitching performance of the day to lead a win.

(21-21) Gwinnett Stripers 4, (22-20) Memphis Redbirds 10

Box Score

  • Braden Shewmake, SS: 1-4, 3B, BB, .303/.368/.437
  • Phil Gosselin, 3B: 1-5, HR, .291/.354/.472
  • John Nogowski, 1B: 3-4, RBI, .224/.325/.316
  • Nolan Kingham, SP: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2.31 ERA
  • Victor Vodnik, RP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA

Gwinnett started this game off with a bang thanks to Phil Gosselin, who hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 1st inning to tie the game up at 1-1. After that they were shut down until the game was out of hand, with the next hit coming from John Nogowski in the fifth inning after the Stripers already trailed 9-1. The offense did some damage in the late innings and that started with a leadoff triple from Braden Shewmake in the sixth inning that led to the next run on a Hernan Perez single. John Nogowski also had an RBI hit in the inning, but Gwinnett stranded two runners in their last real chance to make the game competitive.

The Stripers were going with a bullpen game to try to get through nine innings, and with some of their normal bulk guys struggling it was a revolving door of arms. Nolan Kingham was the opener in the game and had the Stripers in an early hole when he allowed a first inning home run. They turned to Brandyn Sittinger for two innings, but he couldn’t make it through the second of those innings as a two run home run ended his day and gave Memphis a lead. Typically Connor Johnstone is the go-to arm to eat up innings but he simply did not have it in this game as he allowed five runs in the fourth inning — including a grand slam — that put the game out of reach. The rest of the bullpen mostly did their jobs, with the highlights coming from Victor Vodnik’s two hitless innings and Michael Tonkin striking out the side in the eighth.

Next Game: 5/24 @ (20-22) Norfolk Tides @ 6:35 PM ET

(18-21) Mississippi Braves 6, (18-21) Biloxi Shuckers 1

Box Score

  • Michael Harris II, PH-CF: 0-1, BB, .306/.366/.522
  • Riley Delgado, DH: 2-4, BB, .337/.404/.388
  • Luke Waddell, 2B: 1-5, SB, .277/.355/.424
  • Jared Shuster, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2.14 ERA
  • Tyler Ferguson, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1.08 ERA

The first headline to this game came before first pitch when Michael Harris II was scratched from the lineup for his first missed start of the season, but he came off the bench late to appear in the game. Without Harris for the first time (mostly) the Braves did just fine, starting with a big third inning. Jalen Miller led off with a walk and CJ Alexander’s single gave Mississippi a key scoring opportunity in a scoreless game. They came through clutch, with Jacob Pearson breaking the seal on a two run double and Trey Harris making it a three run frame on an RBI single. Throughout the middle of the game the Braves added individual runs, with a run scoring on an error in the fifth, another Trey Harris RBI single in the sixth, and an RBI hit from Logan Brown in the seventh. Michael Harris II drew a walk and grounded out in his two plate appearances, coming on to replace Jalen Miller who left for unknown reasons.

Jared Shuster had an opportunity to bounce back from a rough outing on Tuesday evening and he did so and more with a six inning gem to lead Mississippi to a win. Shuster pounded the edges at the bottom of the zone and forced nine ground ball outs over six innings. A first inning double was the only hard contact he allowed until the fifth inning as he retired 13 of the next 14 batters with only a walk to break up a streak. The sixth inning was the only time he stumbled a bit as a couple of ground balls managed to get through the infield and bring in the only run off of Shuster. The bullpen picked up right where Shuster left off, with Hayden Deal giving the Braves a scoreless seventh inning and Jake Higginbotham shutting it down in the eighth. This turned it over to Tyler Ferguson, who has been a surprising bright spot for Mississippi this season and lowered his ERA to 1.08 with a scoreless ninth inning.

Next Game: 5/24 @ (19-15) Pensacola Blue Wahoos @ 7:35 PM ET

(23-16) Rome Braves 9, (26-11) Aberdeen IronBirds 4

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 3-4, 2B, HR, BB, SB, 3 RBI .281/.390/.430
  • Cody Milligan, 2B: 2-5, .333/.463/.450
  • Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B: 2-3, HR, BB, 2 RBI, SB, .317/.413/.508
  • Royber Salinas, SP: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 8.53 ERA
  • Dylan Spain, RP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 8.16 ERA

Rome capped off their huge week against the league’s top team by winning their third straight game in dominant fashion. Vaughn Grissom seemed to break out of his short slump in a big way today and it started in the first inning when he gave Rome the lead with a two run home run. Aberdeen fought back to tie the game, but the top of the order was on fire this game and Drew Campbell, Grissom, and Justyn-Henry Malloy loaded the base with one out. Christian Robinson came through with a go ahead RBI single and then Grissom scored on a straight steal of home to make it 4-2.

Aberdeen was not going down easy and also put up a two run inning to tie the game, but the top of Rome’s lineup was too hot and Malloy hit his fifth home run of the season to give them a lead they would not relinquish. In the sixth inning the lineup flipped again with two outs and Rome immediately got three straight hits, including an RBI double from Grissom, to score three runs and seal the game. Rome’s big week brings them close to the top of the standings, as they now sit just half a game back of first place in the battle for the first half division lead.

Royber Salinas made the start for Rome and it was clear his command was not going to cooperate in this outing. Salinas loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on a couple of hits and a walk, but he remained relatively unharmed as only a sacrifice fly scored a run off of him. In the second inning another two out walk came back to burn him, as the next batter doubled to score the runner and tie the game. Third third inning was when things really went south as he loaded the bases on a walk, hit batter, and another walk to set up a game-tying base hit. After a strikeout to keep the game tied he was pulled with two outs. The bullpen for Rome was phenomenal in support of Salinas, covering 6 13 innings with no runs, nine strikeouts, and only one walk allowed. Jake McSteen was the first of those, escaping that bases loaded jam with a strikeout and then pitching a scoreless fourth inning. Every subsequent pitcher delivered a scoreless inning of relief, with closer Austin Smith finishing out the game to lower his ERA on the season to 2.51.

Next Game: 5/24 @ (17-20) Hudson Valley Renegades @ 6:05 PM ET

(21-18) Augusta GreenJackets 5, (26-13) Charleston Riverdogs 4

Box Score

  • Caleb Durbin, 2B: 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI, .281/.390/.421
  • Brandol Mezquita, LF: 1-4, .331/.403/.451
  • Adam Zebrowski, C: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, .221/.364/.432
  • JJ Niekro, SP: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2.53 ERA
  • Tyler Owens, RP: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3.80 ERA

Augusta needed to win this game to avoid a sweep, and they managed to sneak out with a win after taking a pretty comfortable lead. Augusta fell behind by a run in the first inning, but Adam Zebrowski brought the lumber with a two run home run in the second that gave them a 2-1 lead. Augusta kept adding on runs, with Stephen Paolini driving one in in the third inning to extend the lead and Caleb Durbin doubling home the fourth run of the game in the fourth inning. The pace fell off in the middle innings as both bullpens were superb, and the action didn't pick up again until a double from Brian Klein led off the ninth inning. Klein advanced on a ground out and scored on a sacrifice fly from Durbin for a key insurance run to make it 5-1. Of note Brandol Mezquita had a hit before that Paolini RBI, which extended his on base streak to an even 30 games.

JJ Niekro has been fantastic this season for Augusta, and there was no exception here after he recovered from a shaky first inning. A walk and two hits brought in a run in that first inning, but not one other runner got past second base while he was in the game and he departed in the fifth inning after his sixth strikeout. Tyler Owens stranded a runner of Niekro’s and then pitched two scoreless innings of his own to send the game into the late innings. Owens was shaky in a starting role early this season, but after his shift to the bullpen he has made five appearances and posted a 1.35 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 4 walks in 13 13 innings. Isrrael De La Cruz was perfect in the eighth inning and struck out two batters, leaving the ball in closer Rob Griswold’s hands to finish a win. The ninth inning immediately started with a fielding error by the third baseman, and two hits with one out loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. Griswold got a ground out for the second out, but a double cleared the bases with two outs and put the tying run on second base. With the game on the line Griswold came through and got a pop out to end the game.

Next Game: 5/24 vs (28-11) Myrtle Beach Pelicans @ 7:05 PM ET