CHARLOTTE — Sean Kazmar belted home runs in consecutive innings and Joe Leonard added a three-run shot as the Gwinnett Braves beat the Charlotte Knights 9-2 on Monday afternoon in the 2014 season finale at BB&T Ballpark.
The win, combined with a Norfolk loss at Durham, clinched a second-place finish for Gwinnett in the International League South Division with a 65-77 record. Charlotte finishes with a 63-81 mark.
Kazmar went 2-for-5 with a season-high four RBIs, launching a go-ahead solo homer in the eighth inning and a three-run homer in the ninth. Leonard went 4-for-4 with a three-run homer in the eighth to put the game out of reach. Their late power surge broke open what had been a very close contest.
Gwinnett scored in the top of the first off Charlotte starter Andre Rienzo as Todd Cunningham led off the game with a double to right-center and scored on a double to left by Elmer Reyes for a 1-0 lead.
G-Braves’ starter Zach Stewart cruised through the first two innings, but ran into trouble in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Jared Mitchell singled and scored on a double by Josh Richmond to tie the game at 1-1. Jordan Danks followed with a single to left scoring Richmond for a 2-1 Knights’ lead.
But in the top of the sixth, Rienzo walked Brandon Boggs, who then moved to second on a wild pitch. Steve Lerud laced a clutch two-out RBI double to right, scoring Boggs for a 2-2 tie.
After a scoreless seventh, the G-Braves played long ball to put the game away.
With Charlotte reliever Daniel McCutchen on the mound, Kazmar (3) delivered his first homer, a long solo shot to left for a 3-2 G-Braves’ lead. Ozzie Martinez followed with a single and moved to third on a single to right by Edward Salcedo. Leonard (2) then drilled a towering three-run homer to left to raise the lead to 6-2.
In the top of the eighth, Reyes began things with a single to center, stole second base and moved to third on a single to right by Boggs. Kazmar (4) then mashed a long three-run homer to left for a 9-2 lead. The Gwinnett bullpen combination of Atahualpa Severino and Carlos Fisher kept the Knights off the board the rest of the way.
Stewart pitched 6.0 innings with three hits, two earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts. Severino (W, 5-3) went 2.0 innings with one hit and one strikeout. Fisher worked a scoreless, hitless ninth with three strikeouts.
For Charlotte, Rienzo went 6.0 innings with six hits, two earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts. McCutchen (L, 0-2) worked 3.0 innings with nine hits, seven earned runs and one strikeout.
In addition to the big days of Kazmar and Leonard, Reyes went 3-for-5 with a double, run scored and an RBI, while Martinez was 2-for-5 with a run scored. Gwinnett scored 15 runs on 28 hits in the final two games at Charlotte and finished the season on a three-game winning streak.
For Charlotte, Danks and Dan Wagner were each 1-for-3. Richmond went 1-for-4 with an RBI.