Riley blasts Rome to brink of Sally crown

Atlanta's No. 13 prospect goes yard to back Allard's scoreless outing

Austin Riley has two homers and seven RBIs for Rome over six playoff appearances. (Chris Robertson)

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | September 15, 2016 11:47 PM

With both pitching staffs rolling, Austin Riley provided the big hit Class A Rome needed Thursday.

Atlanta's No. 13 prospect clubbed his second homer in as many games as Rome blanked Lakewood, 2-0, in Game 3 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series at FirstEnergy Park.

Riley led off the fourth inning against Lakewood starter Alberto Tirado -- who had struck out the previous four batters -- with the game still scoreless. The Braves third baseman fell behind in the count, 0-2, but adjusted to crush the third offering over the center-field fence.

"He started me with a curveball that I swung and fouled off and then came back with another curveball that I took. So in my mind, I was thinking there was a good chance he was going to come back with a fastball," Riley said. "That's what I sat on and he kind of left it over the plate. I put a pretty good swing on it."

Carlos Castro added another run later in the inning on a single to center. The lead proved enough for fourth-ranked Braves prospect Kolby Allard (1-0), who surrendered six hits and a walk while striking out nine over six frames. The 19-year-old left-hander hasn't allowed a run over 12 innings in two playoff starts.

"Honestly, he was able to use all his pitches from what I saw," Riley said. "He got some strikeouts with the curveball and got some swing-and-misses. He got some broken bats with the changeup. He just all around had his stuff."

Allard said the low-scoring win was typical of Rome's style during the playoffs. Against a BlueClaws pitching staff that led the circuit with 1,267 strikeouts, runs have come at a premium.

"We just battle," Riley said. "The guys went out there and grinded out each at-bat. Other than my big hit, I had two strikeouts, so they had some good pitching. We just don't give up until the last out. We're going to keep grinding everything out."

The series continues with Game 4 on 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday in Lakewood. The Braves can clinch the Sally League crown with a win.

"We hadn't really said much about it," Riley said. "We've just got to finish. We're not too high, not too low. We're just trying to stay the same, because I feel like that's the way you've got to be if you're going to win a championship. We're ready to get after it."  

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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