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Rome Braves season opener disappoints fans

By Jeff Capen
Staff Writer

It was a cold, bitter night at State Mutual Stadium. The Rome Braves didn't do much to warm it up. Difficulty making contact at the plate and a handful of untimely errors led to the Braves' 10-4 demise in their 2008 season opener against the Charleston Riverdogs on April 3.

Charleston's starting pitcher, 6-foot-8 righthander Dellin Betances, showed the Braves and the 3,663 fans in attendance exactly why he's one of the top prospects in the New York Yankees organization.

Surrendering only three hits and two runs over a span of five innings, Betances (1-0) struck out eight batters enroute to his first victory of the season. His only mistake came in the third inning, when Rome's Concepcion Ramirez took a 1-2 pitch deep over the left-field wall.

Rome's one-run lead didn't last long. The Braves' southpaw starter, Jeff Locke, surrendered four runs through four and one-third innings, ultimately taking the loss to fall to 0-1 on the season. Michael Broadway would replace Locke in the fifth, only to surrender five more runs in two innings pitched.

Left fielder Austin Krum led the Charleston onslaught, going 2-for-3 with a triple and four RBIs. Third baseman Bradley Suttle went three-for-five with a triple and an RBI. The Riverdogs would end up scoring ten runs on twelve hits, building an insurmountable deficit for the Braves to overcome.

Not helping the Braves' cause were the five errors committed by the team. Dropped pop-ups, bobbled grounders and errant throws drew exasperated groans from the shivering crowd. The miscues handed the Riverdogs four unearned runs, which might have made things a little bit more interesting in the final two frames. At least half the crowd had made its way to a warmer place by then.

First baseman Freddie Freeman added two runs to the Braves' total with a single to left in the eight inning, but Charleston already had the game well in hand. The hometown Braves would strike out 13 times altogether. Outfielder Cody Johnson was 0-4 with four strikeouts. Catcher Chris Anderson struck out three times.

All in all, it was a forgettable night at State Mutual Stadium. The 54 degree temperature and wind certainly didn't help, and the team's overall performance certainly didn't warrant many cheers from the crowd. However, the Braves and their fans know that the season is long, and there is plenty of time for the hometown team to turn it around.