Savannah, GA – The Sand Gnats defeated the Rome Braves 4-3 Saturday night at State Mutual Stadium with the help of an eighth inning home run by Gnats catcher Colton Plaia. Righthander John Michael Gant earned his second win of the season for Savannah, pitching seven innings and striking out six.
For the third straight night, Savannah (6-3) jumped on the scoreboard in the first inning. Savannah is now 4-1 when scoring first. Switch-hittingVictor Cruzado, starting for the first time in center field, led the game off with a single off of Rome lefthander Jared Dettmann. Third basemanJeff McNeil then threw down a sacrifice bunt to move Cruzado to the second base. Second baseman L.J. Mazzilli singled next to put runners on the corners. Right fielder Jared King then plated the speedy Cruzado with a sacrifice fly – his league-leading 11th RBI. King later singled in the third inning to preserve his nine-game consecutive on-base streak.The Gnats tacked on another two runs in the top of the fifth on four straight singles, chasing Dettmann. Savannah opposing starters have lasted until just the fourth inning or earlier in four of the last five games.Gant, in his second start of the season, navigated nine Rome hits over seven innings to keep the Gnats within striking distance. Gant ran into trouble in the fifth inning when the Braves (3-7) tied the game up on five hits including an RBI double by Braves shortstop Mikey Reynolds.
In the eighth inning, Braves reliever Richie Tate served up a solo home run off the bat of Catcher Colton Plaia – his first of the season. Plaia’s longball put the Gnats ahead for good. The Braves have yet to lead the Gnats in this series.
Gnats reliever Tim Petersen earned his first save of the season, pitching two innings while striking out three batters and allowing just one hit.
Tonight’s win keeps Savannah on pace with Greenville (6-3), still tied for the division lead. The Gnats will look to sweep the Rome series by sending RHP Chris Flexen (0-1, 9.64) to the bump Sunday afternoon to take on the Atlanta Braves’ lefthander Mike Minor in his third rehab appearance and first start with the Rome Braves. First pitch at State Mutual Stadium is set for 2:00 p.m.
The Gnats will then travel to Augusta for a three game set with the GreenJackets on Monday before returning home to Savannah to face the Greenville Drive on Thursday for a three game series.