The Charlotte Knights’ International League playoff hopes came down to their final game.
Unfortunately for the Knights, that’s also where those hopes ended, in a 6-2 loss to the Gwinnett Braves on Monday afternoon at BB&T BallPark.
Charlotte (65-79) finished a half-game behind Gwinnett (65-78) in the IL South Division standings, sending the Braves on to the playoffs.
Gwinnett starter Tyrell Jenkins threw six shutout innings, and Gwinnett got to Charlotte’s pitchers early in building a five-run lead.
Jenkins (9-3), the Braves’ ace, got the victory by allowing just two runs off 10 hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings, with two strikeouts.
Jenkins took a shutout into the bottom of the seventh, when the Knights finally scored on Jacob May’s RBI double off the right-field wall. Charlotte added a run in the bottom of the eighth on Nicky Delmonico’s two-out RBI single.
However, that wasn’t enough to overcome the Braves’ early advantage. Gwinnett scored four runs in the first three innings off Knights starter Kameron Loe, off Blake Lalli’s two-run double in the top of the second, an RBI fielders choice by Rio Ruiz and an RBI sacrifice fly by Mel Rojas Jr. in the bottom of the third.
Lalli added another two-run single in the top of the eighth inning off Knights reliever Zack Burdi, pushing the Braves’ lead to 6-1.
Quote: “We always wanted to pull this last game out that we needed to get into the playoffs. But I couldn’t be any prouder of our guys. They grinded out all year, and it’s a special group of guys that does that. They did that all season.” – Knights manager Julio Vinas.
Worth mentioning: Lalli finished with two hits and four RBIs for the Braves, who had 10 hits total against four Charlotte pitchers. Emilio Bonifacio and Reid Brignac also had two hits each. … Delmonico and Leury Garcia had two hits each for the Knights. … Attendance at Monday’s game was 9,568, pushing Charlotte’s season attendance to 628,173. While the total was second in all of minor league baseball to the IL’s Indianapolis Indians, the Knights’ per-game average of 8,974 over 70 home games was No. 1.
What's Next: For the Knights, the season’s over; for Gwinnett, it moves on to an playoff matchup against IL West champion Columbus Clippers (81-62). The first two games in the best-of-five series will be in Columbus, Ohio, with Game 3 (and Games 4-5, if necessary) in Lawrenceville, Ga.