Francoeur, Jansen, Davies Lead Rome

The Rome Braves finished the best of three South Atlantic League Southern Division Championship series against Hickory with a valiant effort and a 3-1 win to take the series 2-1. Bill Shanks reports in with the latest from Hickory.

The Rome Braves advanced to the South Atlantic League Title Round Saturday night by defeating the Hickory Crawdads 3-1.

Hickory, North Carolina

Rome starter Kyle Davies was terrific Saturday. He allowed a home run to Victor Mercedes in the first inning, but settled down to allow only one more hit the rest of the way. Davies gave up two hits in six innings, walked one, and struck out nine.

With the Braves down 1-0 in the sixth, third baseman Wes Timmons singled to start the inning. Then centerfielder Jeff Francoeur BUNTED Timmons over to second. The Crawdads were shocked and left third base uncovered. Timmons went to third base and then Francoeur went all the way to second. Brian McCann struck out and then Hickory intentionally walked Yaron Peters to load the bases.

Ardley Jansen then singled in Timmons and Francoeur to give Rome a 2-1 lead.

Francoeur told BravesCenter.com after the game that he decided in the on deck circle before the inning started that if Timmons got on to lead off the inning, he was going to bunt to get him over to second. The Braves had been unable to do anything off of Hickory starter Pat O'Brien up to that point. Francoeur wanted to get a man in scoring position, and instead shocked the Crawdads into ruining their inning.

In the seventh inning, Francoeur blooped a single into right field to score Luis Hernandez and give Rome a 3-1 lead.

Davies left after the sixth inning and was replaced by three dominating Rome relievers. Manager Rocket Wheeler and Pitching Coach Kent Willis had planned to replace Davies with a three headed monster.

In the seventh, Blaine Boyer, who admirably filled the role as a reliever in Macon in 2002 but returned to a starting role in 2003, pitched a scoreless inning. Boyer was clocked in the mid-90's.

Then in the eighth, Jose Capellan brought in his high-90's fastball to paralyze the Crawdads. "Cappy" got one strikeout.

Finally, to wrap up the game, Rome brought in it's closer Sung Jung. Hickory went down 1-2-3 in the ninth to wrap it up for Rome 3-1.

The bullpen trifecta was nasty! Hickory had no chance.

Rome left Hickory Sunday morning at 10:15 am for Lake County, Ohio. They start the Sally League Championship Series against the Northern Division Champion Lake County Captains.

Rome beat Lake County 3 out of 4 games in Rome in the only series of the season between these two teams.

Game One is Monday Night with Anthony Lerew on the mound for Rome. Matt Wright will start Game Two on Tuesday.

The two teams make the 11 hour bus trip back to Rome on Wednesday to prepare for Game Three on Thursday night at State Mutual Stadium in Rome. Games 4 and 5 will be in Rome Friday and Saturday if necessary.

Congratulations to the Rome Braves on continuing a tremendous season in 2003!

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