The Rome Braves scored in each of the first three innings, including a seven-run rally in the third, to pull away early in a 9-2 Braves victory over the Charleston RiverDogs on Friday night at State Mutual Stadium in South Atlantic League action. Newly-acquired Braves pitcher Sean Bierman earned a victory in his return to affiliated baseball.
The RiverDogs fell to 32-29 in the second half and 65-66 overall. The Braves increased their records to 28-33 this half and 52-79 for the year. Rome has a 1-0 lead in this three-game series.
A strange odyssey around the bases helped Rome to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Connor Oliver led off and made it to second base after a single with an error. While Connor Lien was at the plate, a stolen base and a wild pitch allowed Oliver to score the game's first run.
Charleston answered with a two-run rally in the top of the second and grabbed a 2-1 lead. Kale Sumner drew a one-out walk ahead of Gosuke Katoh, who came through with a double. Claudio Custodio doubled to drive in Sumner and Katoh, pushing the RiverDogs in front.
The Braves tied the contest at 2-2 during the home half of the second. Sal Giardina received a walk, Codey McElroy was hit by a pitch, and Reed Harper walked to quickly load the bases. Carlos Sanchez hit a fly ball to right field that landed and ended with a force out at second base, but Giardina scored on the play as the game-tying run.
Rome's seven-run rally in the third inning launched the Braves to a 9-2 advantage. Joey Meneses scored on a one-out error to kick off the scoring. Two batters later, Sanchez singled to bring in Giardina and McElroy. Cody Livesay also hit a single, driving in Harper. After a fly out, a triple from Lien scored both Sanchez and Livesay. Carlos Franco delivered a run-scoring single that plated Lien for the seventh and final run of the inning.
Bierman entered the contest during the fourth inning as an injury replacement for Daniel Cordero. The bases were loaded with two outs following a strikeout when Cordero was unable to continue. Bierman escaped the jam with a one-pitch groundout and kept the RiverDogs scoreless over the final 5.1 innings of play.
Friday's contest marked Bierman's return to Minor League Baseball. He pitched in the Tampa Bay Rays system in 2012 and 2013. Bierman joined the Chicago White Sox organization through the Jesse Crain trade, pitched for a pair of White Sox affiliates this year, but was quickly released. He was an All-Star for the independent Rockland Boulders before signing with Atlanta.
A win in his team debut gave Bierman a 1-0 record for Rome. Charleston's Gabe Encinas was charged with the loss and dropped to 0-3.
COMING UP: Game two of this three-game series is set for 7pm on Saturday. Charleston RHP Luis Niebla (2-1, 2.59 ERA) will face Rome LHP Matt Marksberry (5-9, 3.65 ERA). The last RiverDogs homestand follows this road trip as Charleston will host Greenville from Tuesday, August 26 through Thursday, August 28. The homestand finale features a special start time of 6:35pm as well as postgame fireworks. Tickets may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or on-line at www.riverdogs.com. If fans cannot make it to the ballpark, they are encouraged to tune in to all the action this year both home and away worldwide on www.riverdogs.com and locally on 1250 WTMA, the new radio home for RiverDogs baseball.