LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Jerry Sands hit and Slade Heathcott hit back-to-back home runs in a five-run fourth inning as the Charlotte Knights (49-64) beat the Gwinnett Braves (50-62) by a 9-4 score Thursday night at Coolray Field.
With Gwinnett leading 2-0 in the fourth, G-Braves’ starter Kanekoa Texeira (L, 1-6) allowed consecutive singles to open the frame. After a fly out, Nicky Delmonico singled to load the bases and on a 2-2 pitch, Sands blasted a grand slam off the brick wall behind the Gwinnett bullpen in left field, putting the Knights up 4-2.
On the next pitch, Heathcott lined a solo shot off the batter’s eye in dead center, giving the Knights a 5-2 lead.
Gwinnett had gotten on the board first against Charlotte starter Kameron Loe (W, 1-3) with two runs in the first inning. With one out, Reid Brignac singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by shortstop Jake Peter.
After a fly out, Rio Ruiz walked and Sean Kazmar Jr. and George Kottaras collected RBI singles, putting the G-Braves on top.
But Loe settled down after that, holding Gwinnett scoreless over the next 5.0 innings. He yielded back-to-back singles to Emilio Bonifacio and Daniel Castro to open the seventh, but reliever Matt Purke (H, 4) got out of the jam to keep Charlotte ahead.
The Knights added three unearned runs in the eighth, benefitting from a three-base throwing error by Kottaras. With runners at second and third, reliever Madison Younginer struck out Adam Engel with a pitch in the dirt, but Kottaras didn’t catch the ball cleanly and when he threw to first, it sailed over Brignac’s head and into right field, bringing in both runs.
Jason Bourgeois capped the frame with a sacrifice fly, scoring Engel and Delmonico homered against G-Braves’ catcher Blake Lalli in the ninth for Charlotte’s final tallies.
Loe got his first win of the season by scattering eight hits over 6.0 innings and walking two. He struck out two and threw 60 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Purke and Matt Lollis held Gwinnett to just one hit over the final 3.0 innings for Charlotte.
Bonifacio, Kottaras and Ronnier Mustelier each had two hits for the G-Braves and Ruiz capped the scoring with an RBI groundout in the ninth. Texeira yielded five runs on six hits over 3.1 innings while walking one and striking out three in a spot start for Gwinnett, which was 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
The G-Braves hit the road for a six-game road trip, beginning Friday night at 7:05 p.m. against the Durham Bulls. Right-hander Chris Ellis (2-4, 7.57) is scheduled to start for the G-Braves against righty Jacob Faria (3-2, 4.73) for Durham. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.