LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Blake Lalli plated Mel Rojas Jr. on a sacrifice fly with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth inning and Sean Kazmar Jr. went 4-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs as the Gwinnett Braves beat the Columbus Clippers 5-4 on Saturday night at Coolray Field to win the best-of-five Governors’ Cup Semifinal series 3-1.
The G-Braves won Games 3 and 4 at Coolray Field to clinch the club’s first appearance in the Governors’ Cup Championship Series since moving to Gwinnett in 2009. The best-of-five final begins Tuesday night in Moosic, PA, against the International League North Division champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
After Columbus tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the eighth, Rojas Jr. led off the bottom of the eighth by walking against reliever Jeff Johnson (L, 1-1). Ronnier Mustelier followed with a single to right, which Collin Cowgill booted, allowing Rojas Jr. to advance to third. On the first pitch of the following at-bat, Lalli lifted a fly ball to deep left, easily scoring Rojas Jr. to put Gwinnett back in front, 5-4.
Bradley Roney (S, 1) worked a perfect ninth, getting Giovanny Urshela to ground out to shortstop to end the game and set off a G-Braves’ celebration on the infield.
The Clippers fought back against Stephen Janas (BS, 1) in the eighth, when Urshela doubled to begin the frame and scored on Michael Choice’s RBI double two batters later.
Kazmar Jr. had given the G-Braves a 4-3 lead when he led off the fifth inning with a solo home run against Columbus’ starter Toru Murata. The blast landed just over the wall in left-center, and was Gwinnett’s sixth homer of the series.
Columbus didn’t get Kazmar Jr. out all night, as the G-Braves’ second baseman singled three times and was intentionally walked in the seventh, finishing 4-for-4.
The Clippers jumped on G-Braves’ starter Tyrell Jenkins for three runs over the first two innings, but the right-hander settled down and didn’t yield another Clipper to touch home in his outing after that. Urshela singled home Yandy Diaz in the first and Diaz and Yhoxian Medina collected RBI singles in the second off Jenkins.
Gwinnett roared back in the third inning, as Lalli and Kazmar Jr. picked up RBI singles, and the G-Braves tied the game in the fourth on Rojas Jr.’s RBI single.
Janas helped keep the game tied over his first two innings of relief, setting down the Clippers in order in each frame before running into trouble in the eighth. After Choice’s double knotted the score and Guillermo Quiroz singled, Madison Younginer entered the game and struck out Bradley Zimmer.
But Younginer walked Joey Butler to load the bases before getting Cowgill to bounce to first, ending the threat.
Younginer (W, 2-0), who won Game 1 in relief for Gwinnett, got the win Saturday despite recording only two outs. He, Janas and Roney combined to allow just three hits over the final 4.0 innings in relief of Jenkins. The G-Braves’ starter allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over 5.0 innings, while walking four and striking out three.
Murata gave up four runs on 10 hits to Gwinnett in 4.2 innings of work and the G-Braves broke Johnson in the eighth for their final run of the night.
The Governors’ Cup Championship Series starts at PNC Field on Tuesday night at 6:35 p.m. Neither club has announced a starting pitcher for Game 1 of the series, which Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call of on 97.7 FM, beginning at 6:05 p.m.
Game 3 of the series will be at Coolray Field on Thursday, September 15 and Games 4 and 5 (both if necessary) would be on Friday, Sept. 16 and Saturday, Sept. 17, respectively, each at 7:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves are offering a special ticket deal for the Governors’ Cup Playoffs. Fans who purchase a $15 Infield Box ticket to any playoff game will also receive a FREE $10 food voucher! Plus, all fans will receive a FREE Foam Tomahawk to help cheer the G-Braves on to victory!
Tickets for the Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup Championship Series are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office. Call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.