Rome, GA (Greenville Drive) – On a dramatic final day of the first half, the Greenville Drive took care of business on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Rome Braves 4-3 in a come-from-behind victory.
The Drive win, coupled with a Columbia Fireflies loss in Charleston, gives the Drive the Southern Division first half title, and the team has clinched a South Atlantic League playoff berth for the first time since 2010.
With the score knotted up at three in the ninth inning, Mitchell Gunsolus came through with the biggest hit of the season for the Drive (41-28), as he smacked an RBI double to center off Jon Kennedy (5-1) to score Nick Lovullo, who also doubled.
Matthew Gorst (3-2) received the victory for the Drive on Sunday, and Stephen Nogosek recorded the final three outs to earn his 13th save and set off a celebration in the infield.
Lovullo gave the Drive a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a sacrifice fly to score Ryan Scott, who began the inning with a single and a stolen base.
The score remained there until the fifth, when Rome scored a pair of runs to take the lead. Cristian Pache lined a game-tying single to right field, and Brett Cumberland followed with a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-1.
The Drive retook the lead in the eighth. Lorenzo Cedrola drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a single by Chris Madera. Santiago Espinal followed with a sacrifice bunt, but Rome pitcher Adam McCreery’s throw sailed away, allowing both Cedrola and Madera to come home and put the Drive ahead 3-2.
Cumberland wasted no time bringing the score back even, as he belted a solo homer leading off the eighth to tie the game at three.
Both starters took home no-decisions despite solid efforts. Jhonathan Diaz worked in and out of trouble for the Drive, and he finished the day with four scoreless innings and four strikeouts. Rome left-hander Joey Wentz struck out six Drive hitters over six innings while allowing just two hits and one run.
Lovullo went 2-2 for Greenville on the afternoon. Pache, Kurt Hoesktra and Lucas Herbert each notched two hits for Rome.
The Drive will now enter the All-Star break having clinched their playoff spot, and five team representatives will take part in Tuesday’s South Atlantic League All-Star Game in Columbia. Following the break, the Drive return to Fluor Field to begin a four-game series against the Charleston RiverDogs, a New York Yankees affiliate, on Thursday night at 7:05.