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Michael Harris II homers twice in M-Braves comeback win

Given I just put out a monthly report on Sunday, I figured a daily recap would be more appropriate today. Pretty much anything notable from the last week will most likely be included in my monthly column, so if you’re interested in checking out the Braves top performers for the month of April, be sure to check out that write-up.

Here’s a recap of everything that happened on Sunday…

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (11-13)

W, 10-2 vs. Norfolk

(P) Huascar Ynoa – (W), 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 6 K

(P) Brandon Brennan – IP, 2 H, 3 K

(3B) Pat Valaika – 2 for 4, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R

(LF) Preston Tucker – 2 for 4, RBI, R

(DH) Alex Dickerson – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 R, BB

(C) Chadwick Tromp – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI, R

(1B) John Negowski – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R

Gwinnett finished Week 4 strong with a rout over Norfolk on Sunday, thanks to four doubles from the offense and a 6 for 13 conversion rate with runners in scoring position. You know everything’s going your way when this happens…

Unfortunately, though, contrary to what Gwinnett’s twitter post has reported, the craziness kicked off by John Nogowski’s hit above did not go down as a home run, but instead a two-run double, aided by the throwing error from the Tides catcher. Regardless, nice hustle by Negowski, who still had a fine day at the plate. In fact, pretty much everyone in the Stripers lineup had a good day, as all but Greyson Jenista finished with a hit yesterday, including multi-hit performances for all of Preston Tucker, Pat Valaika and Chadwick Tromp.

On the pitching end of things, Huascar Ynoa couldn’t have asked for better run support, as he worked with at least a 4-0 lead for much of his outing. And the righty needed it too, given his struggles so far this season. The 23-year-old Ynoa did a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground on Sunday; of his 11 batted-ball outs, eight were groundouts by Norfolk. His only real mistake came in the fifth, when, following a lead-off walk, three batters later he surrendered a two-out, RBI double. Although, with a five-run lead at the time, Ynoa was of course never in any danger. So far, in two starts with Gwinnett in 2022, the Dominican righty has logged a 3.09 ERA in 11 2/3 innings overall. Not bad, but hopefully he can soon carry over that kind of pitching to the big league level.

A three-man Stripers bullpen – that featured Brandon Brennan, Brad Brach and Jasseel De La Cruz (finally!) – went on to piece together the final three frames, with all but Cruz coming away unscathed. In the final inning, JDLC allowed a two-out, RBI single that put the Tides within eight, but he quickly bounced back by getting a game-ending strikeout.

AA – Mississippi Braves (8-13)

W, 11-7 (F/10) vs. Montgomery

(P) A.J. Puckett – 2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

(P) Odalvi Javier – 1 ⅔ IP, 3 K

(2B) Jalen Miller – 2 for 5, HR (GS), 4 RBI, 2 R

(CF) Michael Harris II – 2 for 6, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R

(SS) Luke Waddell – 2 for 4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB

(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 1 for 4, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB

(LF) Andrew Moritz – 3 for 5, R

For the second consecutive night, Mississippi came from behind with two outs in the ninth against Montgomery, picking up its first series win of the season on Saturday. NEVER count out the M-Braves.

This one started off with a bang, as prospect Michael Harris II launched the second pitch of the game into the stratosphere for his third home run of the season. A quick 1-0 lead for Mississippi.

But in the second, Mississippi’s starter A.J. Puckett ran into some trouble, when three-straight Montgomery batters reached from a pair of doubles and a single. Through three, the Biscuits led 3-1.

However the M-Braves rarely settle for just one run, and in the fourth Drew Lugbauer sent the first pitch of the inning over the right-center wall for a solo-homer – his seventh of the season – to put Mississippi down by just one. 

Both offenses went quiet for a bit, with the score staying at 3-2 through the fifth, sixth and seventh. However, in the bottom-half of the eighth, with the M-Braves Coleman Huntley on the mound, the Biscuits hit back to back homers to go up 5-2, all but guaranteeing a victory on Sunday. 

But the Mississippi offense came together for one final push in regulation. In the ninth, Trey Harris drew a one-out walk and Jalen Miller pushed Harris to second with a single to center. Then, two batters later, the scorching-hot Luke Waddell blasted a three-run, game-tying homer.

Huntley settled in for the bottom-half of the ninth, setting down Montgomery in order to force extra-innings. And then like a light switch, the M-Braves lineup broke out in the tenth, coming together to score six runs in the inning. First it was a grand slam by Miller…

Then, immediately after, it was yet another dinger for Michael Harris, giving him two on the day…

In the span of three batters, Mississippi went from being tied at five to up by six. Although, of course that would’ve been much too easy, right?

Huntley came out for the bottom-half of the tenth with a six-run lead, but three batters into the inning, the Biscuits trimmed that advantage to just four, thanks to an RBI double and RBI single. Mississippi then chose to go with reliever Indigo Diaz, who proceeded to quickly set down Montgomery with a flyout and a groundout. The M-Braves escaped, and pulled off another miraculous comeback victory. 

Per last night’s recap over at MiLB.com, as a team Mississippi slugged a whopping 13 homers in this series with Montgomery, led by Harris and Lugbauer: Michael Harris II (3), Drew Lugbauer (3), Yariel Gonzalez (2), Jalen Miller (2), Hendrik Clementina (1), Riley Delgado (1), Luke Waddell (1). Sunday’s win also marks three in a row for the M-Braves.

A+ – Rome Braves (13-8)

L, 7-6 vs. Greensboro

(P) Dylan Dodd – 5 1/3 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, HR

(1B) Landon Stephens – 1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

(2B) Vaughn Grissom – 1 for 5, HR, 2 RBI

(CF/RF) Drew Campbell – 2 for 4, 3B, RBI

(DH) Drew Waters – 1 for 5, R

Rome’s winning streak was snapped at three on Sunday, as an eighth-inning, go-ahead home run from Greensboro’s Matt Gorski gave the Grasshoppers just enough to eek out the win.

For the R-Braves, prospect Dylan Dodd made his fifth start of 2022 yesterday, and despite the team loss, it was yet another sign of improvement from the southpaw. The 23-year-old began the season with a 8.64 ERA through his first two outings, but thanks to just six earned runs over his last 15 2/3 innings spanning three outings, the kid is sporting a more manageable 5.25 ERA. Dodd just wasn’t very efficient on Sunday, needing 90 pitches to get into the sixth, never getting through a clean inning. Still, not too bad – six of his nine hits allowed were singles, with the other three being a pair of doubles and a costly two-run home run in the fourth that tied the game at three.

On a positive note, though, the Rome bats stayed pretty hot on Sunday, turning just five hits into six runs. One of those impactful hits was an RBI triple in the second by Drew Campbell to tie it at one apiece.

That 1-1 tie stayed right where it was at in the third, thanks to some incredible defense by third baseman Justyn-Henry Malloy, who I’m pretty sure pulled off the top play of the year so far for Rome when he snagged a ground ball down the line and quickly lobbed a perfectly-thrown strike to first to get the Greensboro runner out. Absolutely perfect play by Malloy.

And then prospect Vaughn Grissom gave the R-Braves a brief two-run lead when, following a lead-off single by Drew Waters, he blasted off with his second home run of the season. Grissom is heating up, folks, so look out.

As I alluded to above, that 3-1 advantage for Rome didn’t last long, as the Grasshoppers hit the aforementioned two-run homer off Dodd in the fourth. Then, in the seventh, Greensboro tacked on three more when it led off the frame with three-straight hits – one of which was a two-run homer – off reliever Davis Schwab. And the damage continued against Schwab, as following the long ball, in that same inning catcher Javier Valdes misplayed a pitch, allowing a runner to advance from first to second. That runner wound up scoring two batters later off an RBI single, making it 6-3 Grasshoppers.

However, Rome didn’t quit. In the bottom-half of the seventh, Christian Robinson led off by getting on base thanks to a Greensboro error. Then, two batters later, Malloy drew a walk, setting up the RBI opportunity for Landon Stephens. Two runners on base couldn’t have came at a better time, for Stephens made the Grasshoppers pay by blasting his eighth homer of the season, quickly tying the game at six.

But, it just wasn’t meant to be. That eighth-inning long ball off Rome’s Dylan Spain was too much to overcome for the R-Braves, as the offense just couldn’t keep up anymore.

For the slugging Stephens, the first baseman now has 22 RBI in 18 games in 2022, including 11 ribbies in just his last six games. The man has been an absolute game changer for Rome so far this year, and he finishes the first day of May with a .261 AVG and 1.031 OPS overall.

A – Augusta GreenJackets (12-9)

W, 7-5 vs. Delmarva

(P) Royber Salinas – 5 IP, H, ER, BB, 9 K, HR

(C) Adam Zebrowski – 1 for 4, 2 RBI

(LF) Brandol Mezquita – 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

(DH) Rusber Estrada – 1 for 3, HR, RBI

(CF) Kadon Morton – 1 for 3, HR, RBI, 2 R

(SS) Cal Conley – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 R, BB

Augusta already won its series against Delmarva on Saturday, so Sunday’s win was just piling it on, as the GreenJackets did the Shorebirds dirty by throwing out its rotation ace, righty Royber Salinas. As usual, Salinas controlled the game during his outing, pitching around a harmless solo home run to lead off the second. The kid finished up his start by setting down his final six batters in order, and on the day he needed just 67 pitches to complete the five-inning gem. I really don’t know what else the Braves need to see from the 21-year-old as Salinas now sports a 1.52 ERA in five starts in Single-A. Unfortunately, the nine punch outs dropped his K rate from 20.7 K/9 to 19.7. Unacceptable!

Replacing Salinas on the mound on Sunday was reliever J.J. Niekro, who had an uncharacteristic appearance, allowing two runs from four hits in 3 2/3 innings. Unfairly, though, Niekro received the win, before giving way to Peyton Williams, who got the final out of the game.

On offense, trailing 1-0, Augusta tied it in the second when Brandol Mezquita slugged his first home run of the season.

Both the GreenJackets and Shorebirds traded zeroes for awhile, until the sixth, when Augusta struck again. Saturday’s offensive hero, Rusber Estrada, led off the inning with his first long ball of the year in Single-A – an absolute no doubter that I don’t believe anyone saw land, putting Augusta up 2-1.

Augusta began to rally after that big fly from Estrada. Kadon Morton reached on an error, Cal Conley doubled, and two batters later Adam Zebrowski knocked in both Morton and Conley when he singled to right, making it a three-run game. Then, in the eighth, Morton hit himself a dinger (his second of the season), and both Stephen Paolini and Mezquita added an RBI each to push the GreenJackets way ahead, 7-1.

Things got a little interesting in the ninth, when Niekro had the aforementioned stinker, allowing four of the first five Delmarva batters to reach in that final frame. And it became even more stressful once Williams replaced him, as the latter pitcher hit the first batter he faced and walked the second one, loading the bases with two outs and just a two-run lead. Thankfully, though, Williams got the final Shorebirds batter to swing and miss to preserve the lead and the win.

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