The two lower levels of the Atlanta Braves minor league system wrapped up their regular seasons on Sunday, doing so in opposite fashion to each other. Augusta starter and 2022 draft pick Blake Burkhalter was phenomenal but the bullpen couldn’t hold an early lead. Meanwhile Rome finished on a high note with a win and will begin their first round playoff series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods on Tuesday. At the upper levels Gwinnett was rained out of their series finale while Justyn-Henry Malloy provided headlines with a home run.
(63-70) Gwinnett Stripers, (69-64) Buffalo Bisons CANCELLED
Next Game: 9/13 vs (75-60) Durham Bulls @ 7:05 PM ET
(59-71) Mississippi Braves 4, (62-67) Biloxi Shuckers 5
- Cade Bunnell, SS: 2-4, HR, .315/.438/.600
- Jalen Miller, DH: 2-3, BB, .241/.347/.400
- Justyn-Henry Malloy, LF: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, .291/.416/.459
- Hayden Deal, SP: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 4.42 ERA
- Indigo Diaz, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 3.02 ERA
Mississippi put up a fight to come from behind late in this game, but ultimately dropped in extra innings and are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Braves were able to take an early lead in this game behind the power of Justyn-Henry Malloy, who mashed a first inning two run home run. That was Malloy’s sixth home run in a Mississippi uniform and his 16th overall on the season. The offense was unfortunately a cold spot from their and the next hit wasn’t until the sixth inning when the Braves trailed 4-2. Jalen Miller and Cade Bunnell started a rally with one out singles and Riley Delgado brought the Braves within a run with a hit of his own. A wild pitch moved Bunnell and Delgado into scoring position with one out, but after a strikeout Bunnell was caught between third and home on a wild pitch that ricocheted hard back to the catcher. After this blunder the Braves again went quiet for a couple of innings before Bunnell redeemed himself with a game-tying leadoff home run in the ninth inning. Outside of home runs Mississippi really couldn’t do anything productive all game and in the tenth inning failed to advance the runner from second base and took a walk off loss.
Mississippi probably hoped for some length from opener Hayden Deal, but he got beat up in the second inning and they had a revolving door of arms from that point on. Deal gave the Braves a shutdown inning in the first after Malloy’s home run but allowed consecutive four pitch walks to open the second. He then allowed two hits to score three runs and give Biloxi a lead before being pulled from the game. Coleman Huntley was able to escape that inning with no further damage and gave Mississippi 1 2⁄3 innings of scoreless ball in relief. Jake Higginbotham allowed a run in the fourth inning but after that the Mississippi relief corp was fantastic and shut down the Shuckers bats. Jasseel De La Cruz gave them two scoreless innings for at least a little bit of bulk action and then Justin Maese, Indigo Diaz, and Justin Yeager each took one of the late innings to help send it to extras. There Mississippi would turn to Lisandro Santos to try to extend the game to an 11th inning. Santos gave up a hard hit ball to the first batter of the inning however Bunnell was there in the hole to make a solid back hand stop and throw to keep the runner at second base. Then Santos allowed a weak liner up the middle and as baseball is apt to do this is the one that got down for a hit. Bunnell fielded the ball in the infield, but with no time to get the runner at first tried to make a play on the runner who had stopped to see if the ball would fall but unfortunately the throw sailed wide and all runners were safe. They next batter laid down a bunt and Santos couldn’t get the throw home in time to get the runner.
Next Game: 9/13 vs (67-58) Montgomery Biscuits @ 7:35 PM ET
(74-54) Rome Braves 4, (66-645) Hickory Crawdads 2
- Tyler Tolve, C: 1-4, HR, BB, 3 RBI, .261/.338/.470
- Adam Zebrowski, DH: 1-3, HR, BB, RBI, .114/.179/.200
- Caleb Durbin, 3B: 2-3, 2B, BB, .220/.306/.330
- Dylan Spain, SP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 5.30 ERA
- Alex Segal, RP: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0.79 ERA
Rome was out-hit 11 to 6 in this game, but they made the most of their hits to take a win in the regular season finale. The Braves struck first in the second inning with Adam Zebrowski’s first High-A home run giving them a 1-0 lead. Hickory answered with a run in the bottom of the second inning but the Rome bats had more firepower left and didn’t let the game stay tied for long. A throwing error to lead off the third inning became a critical play in this game as following that and a base hit from Geraldo Quintero the Braves would take a 4-1 lead on a Tyler Tolve home run. Hickory never came back in this game and it’s a good thing they didn’t because Rome did a whole lot of nothing after that inning. Their biggest opportunity to add insurance runs came following a leadoff double from Caleb Durbin in the eighth inning but two of the next three guys struck out and Durbin never advanced past second.
Fortunately for Rome their offense’s well-timed home runs were matched equally by Hickory’s inability to come through in the clutch. Rome’s bullpen had a tall task to cover in this game and used eighth pitchers to get through the win. The first of those was Dylan Spain and his outing lasted only six batters as that’s all it took to get through a 1-2-3 first inning. Ronaldo Alesandro took the only multi-inning outing of the game, and though he allowed a run in the second inning he left with Rome holding that 4-1 lead. Trey Riley, Davis Schwab, and Alex Segal each gave the Braves a scoreless of relief to send them to the final third of the game holding a 4-1 lead. Benjamin Dum struggled in the seventh inning with three hits and a walk allowed, but thanks to a double play erasing one of those hits was able to escape with only one run allowed. Alec Barger got into the biggest trouble of the game after allowing a leadoff double and then a single in the eighth inning, but forced a pop out to first base, a strike out, and then a fly out to hold tight to that 4-2 lead. Jake McSteen also allowed two hits in the ninth inning, but he too was able to strand the tying run and close out a Rome win.
Next Game: 9/13 vs (78-52) Bowling Green Hot Rods @ 7:00 PM ET
(69-62) Augusta GreenJackets 5, (58-74) Kannapolis Cannonballers 6
- David McCabe, 3B: 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI, .260/.347/.350
- Noah Williams, RF: 2-3, BB, .353/.450/.471
- Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-4, BB, .294/.493/.373
- Blake Burkhalter, SP: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 0.00 ERA
- Cedric De Grandpre, RP: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 12.71 ERA
Augusta exploded for a five run third inning, but the bullpen was atrocious in a season-ending loss to Kannapolis. After neither team scored in the first two innings Noah Williams got Augusta started in the third, beating out a ground ball to short for an infield single. After Kannapolis removed their starter Jonathan Cannon the GreenJackets went off with Nacho Alvarez taking a walk and then Drake Baldwin and David McCabe getting hits to put them up 3-0. EJ Exposito singled to score McCabe for the fourth run of the inning and Stephen Paolini capped off the scoring with an RBI single of his own. Augusta didn’t put any more runs on the board in this game, and it wasn’t necessarily lack of opportunity either. Alvarez led off the seventh inning with a single, but he was thrown out trying to steal second base and this may have been an important play as Augusta failed to score after they recorded two two-out hits in the inning. The GreenJackets got two runners on with one out in the eighth inning for the top of the order but Alvarez and Kevin Kilpatrick grounded out to end the final scoring threat of the game.
Blake Burkhalter was absolutely untouchable for Augusta, and gave them three of the best innings of pitching they’ve seen all year. He struck out six consecutive batters at one point in this start and retired all nine batters he faced in the game. His primary strikeout offering was his plus cutter high and away from right handed batters but he also was able to whiffs on his changeup, his four seam fastball up, and a slightly slower and thus more vertical variation on his cut fastball. After Burkhalter left the GreenJackets had fewer answers to the question of getting outs. Cedric De Grandpre was coming off of a fantastic outing his last time out, but lacked the control of this game and he struggled. He allowed an unearned run in the fourth inning but all of those from the fifth were his responsibility. De Grandpre allowed a leadoff walk and then a single to put two runners on early. He got two outs to put himself on the verge of escape, but a two run single snuffed his start and put Kannapolis within a run.
Peyton Williams escaped the fifth but had his own issues in the sixth. Now you may not remember all of the way back in April, but I recapped this game so I remember in painful detail the Augusta season opener. Our pal Royber Salinas made a terrific debut and Augusta was cruising to a win until the ninth inning when Peyton Williams blew the save on a three-run home run. Well, Williams now has the unfortunate distinction of having blown the season opener and season finale although this came in much less painful fashion. This time it was just the sixth inning, and a leadoff double and a single had Williams in very early trouble. Fortunately he made up for this by cutting down a runner at home on a comebacker but then allowed a walk to load the bases. An infield fly got Williams the second out but it was not meant for Augusta to escape. The next batter hit a ball deep in the hole and Nacho Alvarez came up with a good play to keep it from going into left field. He then bounced the throw to first base and McCabe couldn’t come up with it allowing the go-ahead run to score on what was ruled a hit and then throwing error on Alvarez. Juan Mateo pitched two scoreless innings in relief following this, but Augusta never made a comeback and Williams was stuck with the loss.
Next Game: 9/10 @ (57-73) Kannapolis Cannonballers @ 7:00 PM ET