Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett Braves short stop Greg Paiml (12) fields a ball hit by Norfolk's Steve Tolleson. Paiml threw the ball to Gwinnett Braves second baseman Josh Wilson to start a double play during the third inning of Monday's game.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Drew Sutton's shot toward deep center field drifted and drifted, finally dropping in out of the reach of speedy Xavier Avery at the warning track.
Sutton's walk-off double scored J.C. Boscan and completed a 12th-inning comeback for the Gwinnett Braves, who beat Norfolk 4-3 on Monday at Coolray Field.
Greg Paiml led off the 12th with a single after the Tides eked out a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning. Paiml stole second and scampered to third on a throwing error. Boscan's RBI single tied the game and he came home when even Avery couldn't track down Sutton's blast.
"We had some very good at-bats late," manager Dave Brundage said. "Paiml and Boscan both with two strikes in the 12th, then obviously you get Sutton coming through in the clutch."
The rally made good on an impressive game-long defensive effort.
The G-Braves came up huge in the 10th and 11th, holding the Tides at bay.
Gwinnett turned a crucial 2-6-3 double play in the 10th and right fielder Luis Durango gunned down Josh Bell at home plate in the 11th. Earning the first outfield assist of the season for Gwinnett, Durango's frozen rope kept things tied 2-2.
"I thought it was our best defensive ball game of the year," Brundage said. "We had a lot of outstanding plays that kept us in the ballgame. The big throw was from Durango at the plate to get the guys, but I also thought holding them just to one run in that 12th inning and giving ourselves the chance (was important)."
The G-Braves strung together four hits to take a 2-0 lead in the second, including a clutch RBI double by Boscan that got the first run across.
Joey Terdoslavich led off with a single and was brought around on a single from Paiml and Boscan's rope into the left-field corner.
But Gwinnett stranded two runners and Norfolk cut the deficit to 2-1 with a quick answer in the third.
Norfolk led off with back-to-back singles and Avery legged out his bunt to load the bases.
The damage was limited dramatically when Paiml, the shortstop, recovered on a bobbled ball in spectacular fashion. What looked like it was going to be a fielding error was turned into a double play. Paiml was able to scoop the ball to a waiting Josh Wilson at second and Wilson snapped the ball to first.
The play did give Chris Robinson to score from third, but the G-Braves escaped with a lead still intact.
It lasted until the sixth when the Tides pushed a tying run across despite not getting a hit.
Starting pitcher Erik Cordier walked the first two batters -- Steve Tolleson and Ryan Adams -- and left the game. Reliever Jaye Chapman walked Josh Bell to load the bases and Jamie Hoffman's sacrifice fly to left scored Tolleman.
Gwinnett got out of the inning with just one run in, but struggled against Norfolk's reliever, Miguel Gonzalez, who came in with one away in the third. Gonzalez retired 11 straight batters, including striking out the side in the sixth before giving way to another righty, John Link.
The G-Braves didn't fair any better against Link in the seventh, again going down in order, or Pat Neshek. Each gave up just one hit in two innings.
Gwinnett finally got to Willie Eyre, though, the fifth pitcher for Norfolk. Eyre took the loss, giving up two runs on four hits in 1 innings.
"I thought we had some very good at-bats early on," Brundage said. "We didn't have the best, but I can't say enough about our defense.
"And anytime we come back, (even this early in the season), it's nice to find those things out about your ball club early on."