DURHAM, NC - The Durham Bulls (4-1) rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning to slip past the Gwinnett Braves (3-2) by a 6-5 score in game one of the three-game series Monday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Durham's comeback spoiled a monster night for Gwinnett's Matt Tuiasosopo. The first baseman went 3-for-5 with a double, two solo home runs, two RBIs and three runs scored. He tied the game with a homer in the sixth and put the G-Braves temporarily ahead with a homer in the 11th.
It looked as if the Bulls would run away and hide early as they scored a run in the first, two in the second and one in the third against Gwinnett starter Casey Kelly.
But the G-Braves chipped away at the 4-0 deficit beginning in the bottom of the fourth as Tuiasosopo doubled to right off Durham starter Adam Wilk and scored on a single to left by Tyler Moore.
In the top of the fifth, Rio Ruiz stroked a one-out single to right and moved to second on a wild pitch by Wilk. Brandon Snyder drilled a single to right, scoring Ruiz. Snyder, who moved to second on the throw, then scored as Chase d'Arnaud greeted reliever Dylan Floro with a double. The two-run fifth pulled the G-Braves within one at 4-3.
In the top of the sixth, Tuiasosopo (2) led off with a mammoth homer to left off Floro to knot the game at 4-4.
Gwinnett had chances to take the lead late in the game, but left the bases loaded and failed to score in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings.
The G-Braves finally broke through in the top of the 11th as Tuiasosopo (3) belted a Tyler Sturdevant pitch over the left field wall for a 5-4 lead.
But in the bottom of the 11th, David Peterson issued a leadoff walk to Nick Franklin to put the tying run aboard. Franklin stole second and moved to third as Kyle Roller singled to center. Peterson walked Pat Leonard to load the bases with none out. Dayron Varona hit into a force play at second, pushing across Frankin and tying the game at 5-5. Carlos Corporan then delivered a walk-off single to right, scoring Roller from third with the winning run.
Kelly pitched 5.0 innings in his first career start for Gwinnett, allowing four earned runs on four hits. Ryan Weber gave the G-Braves a lift out of the bullpen, working 4.0 scoreless, two-hit innings. Peterson (L, 0-1) went 1.1 innings with two hits, two earned runs, two walks and one strikeout.
For the Bulls, Wilk pitched 4.2 innings with six hits, three earned runs and two strikeouts. Floro went 2.2 innings with five hits, one earned run and two strikeouts. Ryan Garton worked 1.2 innings with three hits and three strikeouts. Sturdevant (W, 1-0) pitched 2.0 innings with two hits, one earned run, two walks and two strikeouts.
Aside from the big night for Tuiasosopo, five other G-Braves finished with multi-hit games. Ruiz went 2-for-4 with a run scored, d'Arnaud went 2-for-6 with a double and an RBI, Moore went 2-for-6 with an RBI and Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-5.
Mikie Mahtook was 2-for-5 with a triple, run scored and two RBIs to lead Durham. Richie Shaffer was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
The G-Braves and Bulls continue the series Tuesday night in Durham. Right-hander John Gant (0-0, 0.00) will start for Gwinnett, while Durham will counter with left-hander Blake Snell (1-0, 3.60). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM and WSBRadio.com beginning at 6:35 p.m.
Gwinnett's home opener at Coolray Field is set for Thursday April 14 at 7:05 p.m. against the Norfolk Tides. To purchase tickets, call the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.