Rome slips past RiverDogs

Charleston RiverDogs starting pitcher Luis Niebla did not allow an earned run over six solid innings Thursday night, but errors led to a pair of unearned runs that helped the Rome Braves on their way to a 3-1 win at State Mutual Stadium in South Atlantic League action.

The RiverDogs slipped to 23-24 in the second half and 56-61 overall. The Braves improved to 21-26 and 45-72, respectively.

In the top of the second inning, the RiverDogs took advantage of a two-out miscue to grab a 1-0 lead. After back-to-back groundouts, Dustin Fowler reached on an error to extend the inning. Jackson Valera singled and Gosuke Katoh walked to load the bases. Brandon Thomas drew a walk of his own to force in Fowler and give Charleston an early lead.

Rome also benefitted from an error in its half of the second and evened the score at 1-1. Carlos Franco delivered a one-out double and scored due to an error on a ground ball from Connor Lien. The game remained tied through the top of the third when the RiverDogs stranded multiple runners in scoring position.

More mistakes in the bottom of the third inning pushed the Braves to a 2-1 advantage. Following Connor Oliver's leadoff single and a fly out, a force attempt coupled with an error allowed Oliver to go to third base while Sean Godfrey reached on the play. Jacob Schrader grounded into an error that plated Oliver for the go-ahead run.

Despite the costly errors for each side, both starting pitchers performed well. Niebla tossed a season-high six innings for Charleston while allowing just two unearned runs and four hits. He also retired eight straight batters in one stretch during his first quality start of the season.

Braves starting pitcher Matt Marksberry recorded his fourth consecutive quality start. The Rome southpaw gave up an unearned run, four hits and four walks in six innings pitched. Marksberry also retired the leadoff batter in every inning that he was on the mound on Thursday.

Charleston's best chance to retake the lead came in the eighth inning. Mike Ford, Kale Sumner and Fowler each came through with two-out singles to load the bases. However, a fly out ended the scoring threat and kept Rome in front.

The Braves followed up on their defensive stop with an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Oliver led off with a double and was sacrificed to third base by Johan Camargo. While Godfrey was at the plate, RiverDogs reliever Evan Rutckyj was called for a balk that scored Oliver and gave Rome a 3-1 lead.

Marksberry claimed the victory to move to 5-7. Niebla suffered the loss as his record evened at 1-1. Pete Perez grabbed his sixth save of the season by closing out Rome's win.

Game two of the four-game series will take place at 7 pm. Friday. RiverDogs RHP Rookie Davis (6-8, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to pitch against Braves RHP Steve Janas (2-4, 4.79 ERA).