It was a warm day in Danville Sunday as the Braves returned home to begin a brief two-game series with the Burlington Royals. On Saturday, the Braves’ bats were red hot, collecting a season-high 17 hits, 15 runs and three home runs in a 15-6 win over Princeton.
The heat did not extend to the Danville bats on Sunday however, as the Braves stranded 11 runners on base in a 3-1 loss to the Royals.
Danville collected eight hits, and was even gifted three defensive errors from Burlington, but the big hit just never came for the home nine. The lack of a big hit was summed up pretty perfectly in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Willie Carter singled and moved to second on Burlington’s third error, Ray Hernandez appeared to have an RBI single that would’ve cut the Royals’ lead to 3-2, but the ball deflected off of the pitcher’s glove and right to the shortstop for a relatively easy putout at first base to end the threat.
The Braves then got the winning run to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, but closer Zack Phillips came in for Burlington and retired the next two Danville hitters to close out the game.
“The feeling was, ‘Keep battling all the time and keep your head up. That’s going to happen,’” said Danville Manager Anthony Nuñez. “We’re going to be okay.”
In the first meeting of the season between the Appalachian League East foes, Burlington jumped in front in the top of the second inning and never looked back. Logan Porter led off in the second inning for the Royals and did so with a solo home run to right-centerfield. Maikel Garcia added to the lead later in the inning with a two-out RBI double down the line in right field.
The home run bug came back in the fourth inning, as David Hollie hit Burlington’s second solo shot of the evening made it 3-0.
The Royals sent Adan Frias to the bump to start. Frias entered play Sunday with a 2.08 ERA, and it dropped after he worked four scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out four Braves. Burlington doubled up with the lefties, bringing in Dante Biasi out of the bullpen in the fifth inning. He continued where Frias left off, working 2 2/3 innings while allowing one run on three hits with five strikeouts.
Cody Milligan was able to get something going for the Braves against Biasi, doubling with two outs in the seventh before scoring on a Brandon Parker RBI single to chase Biasi from the game and cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Royals continued with the lefty hurlers, calling on Elliott Anderson to end the seventh.
Alger Hodgson got the start for Danville. It was his fourth appearance of the season, but his first start. Walks were a problem in his last outing where he lasted just 1/3 of an inning, allowing five runs on one hit and four walks. The walks were part of the problem on Sunday too, when Hodgson allowed three free passes in two innings of work, but it was the home run ball that was the biggest problem for the right-hander. Both Burlington home runs came against Hodgson.
Abinson Volquez was first out of the bullpen for Danville. The side-winding righty worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on two hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Alex Aquino relieved Volquez and steadied the ship a bit for the Braves. Aquino worked the final 3 1/3 innings without allowing a baserunner while striking out three Burlington hitters.
“They went through and they battled and they gave it their best effort,” Nuñez said of his pitchers.
The Braves’ win Saturday snapped a season-long four-game losing streak. The Braves fell back into the loss column Sunday, but Nuñez isn’t worried about this tough stretch.
“We’re going to lose. We’re going to win. That’s part of the game. That’s part of the development,” he said. “My guys are playing hard. That’s all I can ask… I cannot ask for more.”
Danville (9-10) and Burlington (9-10) will wrap up their quick two-game set Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at Dan Daniel Memorial Park in Danville. Danville will be off on Tuesday before welcoming Greenville Wednesday for a three-game series.
Chris Doherty is a sports reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach him at (276)638-8801 ext. 215.