Fried leads Rome to South Atlantic League title

Braves' No. 11 fans career-high 13 to help clinch championship

Fried leads Rome to South Atlantic League title

With a South Atlantic League title on the line, Max Fried was at his best.

The Braves' No. 11 prospect recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts over seven innings on Friday to help lead Class A Rome Braves past Lakewood, 6-1, in Game 4 of the South Atlantic League finals at FirstEnergy Park. It was Rome's first South Atlantic League title since 2003.

Fried had established a new career high in strikeouts in his previous playoff start when he fanned 11 hitters over 7 2/3 innings in Rome's series-clinching 4-1 win over Charleston in Game 3 of the South Atlantic League semifinals.

On Friday, the 22-year-old southpaw notched double-digit strikeouts for a fourth straight start and became the first Rome hurler to record 13 strikeouts since Chuck James in 2004. Fried allowed one earned run on four hits and three walks, throwing 67 of his 103 pitches for strikes, to finish the postseason with a 1.23 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.

"My plan of attack was to really trust my catcher, Jonathan Morales, and attack early, get ahead as much as I can and put them away when I can," Fried told MiLB.com. "It was one of those things where I was getting to two strikes and my curveball was on today -- I was able to put it in the dirt. Just trusting Jonathan back there was the biggest peace of mind, knowing I could throw the ball anywhere and he'd keep it in front. Being able to put all my trust in him was the biggest key."

Lakewood opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning when second baseman Grenny Cumana plated third baseman Damek Tomscha with a two-out double off of Fried.

But the BlueClaws' lead wouldn't last for long, as Rome responded by pushing across three runs in the top of the fifth. Shortstop Alejandro Salazar drove in Rome's first run of the contest with an RBI single, and second baseman Anfernee Seymour (Braves' No. 19) followed with a go-ahead double to right field. Center fielder Ronald Acuna (Braves' No. 17) then tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly to extend the Braves' lead, 3-1.

Rome padded its lead with three runs in the top of the seventh, with right fielder Ray-Patrick Didder, third baseman Austin Riley (Braves' No. 13) -- who hit a pair of homers in the championship series -- and designated hitter Justin Ellison all tallying RBIs in the frame. In total, the Braves had six different hitters drive in a run in the contest.

Salazar paced Rome's offense by going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, while catcher Jonathan Morales scored a run in a 2-for-4 performance.

Following Fried's departure, relievers Josh Graham and Corbin Clouse respectively tossed scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings to seal the victory.

Rome claimed the SAL Southern Division second-half crown behind a 43-27 record and then continued to roll in the semifinal action, knocking off Charleston in three games, only to drop Game 1 of the finals against Lakewood, 5-0. It would turn out to be the Braves' only loss in the series, as the club bounced back to defeat the BlueClaws in three straight contests to win the league.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.