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Soroka dominant in Stripers’ home opener

Mike Soroka // Credit: Gwinnett Stripers

At 20 years old, he’s the youngest pitcher in the International League — and if he were still at Double-A Mississippi — he’d still be the youngest pitcher in the Southern League. Despite his age, he’s just as poised and confident as any veteran you’ll find — and he’s got the numbers to prove it.

Mike Soroka, touted as a future top-of-the-rotation piece for the Braves (and their number one pitching prospect), is looking to find his way to Atlanta in 2018 and so far, he’s making a strong case. The 20-year-old made easy work of the Rochester Red Wings (whose youngest player is more than five years older than Soroka), allowing just two runs and five hits over 5 2/3 innings pitched, while striking out eight and walking none. In Soroka’s first start, he threw five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out five. Soroka’s ERA currently sits at 1.69 through two games.

Johan Camargo, who joined Gwinnett after starting a rehab assignment with the advanced-A Florida Firefrogs, hit a solo home run in the opener, the second of his rehab assignment, as he prepares to rejoin the big league squad.

Speaking of players attempting to join the big league squad, top prospect Ronald Acuna’s slow start in AAA continued on Thursday as he went 1-for-6 at the plate with a single and a pair of strikeouts, dropping his average to .120 through six games. While a small sample size, sources within the Braves front office have given indication that Acuna would not be called up this weekend in Chicago (when he becomes eligible after the Braves gain an extra year of contractual control — and may even wait until after the team returns home on Monday, depending on his performance).

As for the Stripers’ home opener (their first appearance at home donning the new pinstripes and Stripers moniker across their chests), the team trailed 2-0 in the second before a Rio Ruiz groundout plated a run to cut the deficit in half. In the fourth, a Johan Camargo long ball would tie the game at two before Carlos Franco would hit the go-ahead double for the Stripers in the sixth, giving Gwinnett a 3-2 lead.

They’d carry the lead to the ninth before Rex Brothers (who infamously walked multiple batters in the Braves Opening Day before being sent down), walked himself into trouble again and allowed the tying run to score before loading the bases — and eventually escaping the jam — clinging onto a 3-3 tie.

We’d get to see the new extra inning rules in effect for the first time as each inning began with a runner on second base beginning in the 10th inning. The Red Wings scored once in the 10th, but the Stripers would answer with one of their own before Ronald Acuna stepped up with the bases loaded and one out. He would fly out and Rob Brantly would be thrown out attempting to tag from third base, ending the Stripers’ threat.

Both teams would then each tack on an additional run in the thirteenth. Gwinnett would call on outfielder Jaff Decker to pitch the fourteenth (ironically, the new minor league extra inning rule was meant to prevent bullpen burnout and situations like this). Decker would allow two runs (or is it just one… since a runner starts the inning on second?), giving Rochester a 7-5 lead. The Stripers would answer with one run in the bottom half of the frame, but it wouldn’t be enough as they fell 7-6. Gwinnett falls to 2-4 on the year as the Red Wings spoil the home opener with their first win of the year (1-3).

The two teams meet again for game two of a four-game set tomorrow night at 7:05pm at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.

College student working in radio and sports marketing with an unbridled passion for the game of baseball, the greatest sport on Earth. Proud to cover high school, college, and Braves baseball for Peachtree Pennant.

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