Grant Witherspoon hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning to lift the Bowling Green Hot Rods to a 7-5 win over the Rome Braves (20-20) on Friday at State Mutual Stadium in Rome, Ga.
The Braves (20-20) got after Hot Rods starter John Doxakis in his first start with Bowling Green during the first inning. Riley Delgado hit a one-out single to right and went to third when Michael Harris II doubled to left. Delgado scored when Kevin Josephina singled to center and Harris came home when Bryce Ball grounded out to first, making it a 2-0 Braves lead. Jesse Franklin V singled to right-center, scoring Josephina to extend the Rome edge to three runs.
Bowling Green (27-13) got a run back against Braves starter Spencer Strider in the top of the fourth. Niko Hulsizer homered for the second consecutive night, driving a ball to right-center field to cut the Braves' lead to 3-1. The homer was Hulsizer’s ninth of the season.
Doxakis was chased from the game in the bottom of the fourth, while Jesse Franklin scored during the frame to get the Braves back to a three-run lead at 4-1.
The Hot Rods stormed back in the eighth against Braves relievers Gabriel Noguera and Coleman Huntley. Jacson McGowan led off with a solo homer to dead-center field to cut Rome’s lead to 4-2. Osmy Gregorio singled to left and went to third when Pedro Martinez grounded a ball to third, where Josephina made an errant throw trying to force Gregorio out at second base.
Noguera was replaced by Huntley out of the bullpen and Connor Hollis grounded into a double play at short, with Gregorio scoring to move the Hot Rods within a run. Hulsizer reached on another error by Josephina and advanced to second on Erik Ostberg’s single to center. Blake Hunt doubled, scoring Hulsizer to tie the game, 4-all.
The contest remained tied and went to extra innings, where the Hot Rods broke through in the 11th against Rome reliever Tyler Ferguson in his Braves debut. With Hill Alexander starting the inning as the placed runner at second base, Hunt barreled a double to left to score Alexander and give Bowling Green a 5-4 edge. With one out, Witherspoon homered to center field to extend the Hot Rods lead to 7-4.
The Braves got one run back in the bottom of the 11th, but Hot Rods reliever Alan Strong got two pop-outs to close out the game with a 7-5 victory.
Doxakis allowed four runs on six hits with three strikeouts over his four innings of work in a no-decision. Joe La Sorsa threw three scoreless innings, holding the Braves to three hits with four strikeouts. Trevor Brigden worked two innings out of the bullpen, allowing three hits with three strikeouts. Strong (2-0) earned the win after working the final two innings of the game, allowing one unearned run and one hit with two walks and two strikeouts.
The Hot Rods and Braves will play the fifth game of the series on Saturday with a 5 p.m. CT first pitch.