The Charleston RiverDogs came storming back in the bottom of the ninth with four runs for a walk-off win against the Lexington Legends Friday Night by the score of 9-8 in front of 3871 fans at Joe Riley Park in Charleston.
The RiverDogs jumped out to a quick start off starter Garrett Davila (5 IP 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO) in the bottom of the first. Hoy Jun Park hit a ball to right field that was fielded by Khalil Lee, but Park hustled and beat the throw for a double. Oswaldo Cabrera drove Park home with a single to left field to put the RiverDogs out front, 1-0. Blake Rutherford followed with an infield single that was fielded by shortstop Angelo Castellano, who chose not to throw the ball and risk an error. After Leonardo Molina struck out, Estevan Florial singled to center which loaded up the bases for Isiah Gilliam. Gilliam hit a sacrifice fly to Lee in right field to extend the Dogs lead to 2-0. Angel Aguilar then doubled to centerfield to drive home Rutherford and Florial for a 4-0 Charleston lead after one inning.
Lexington would storm back in the top of the third to take a 5-4 lead against Dogs starter Freicer Perez (3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO), though his defense didn’t aide his cause. Castellano hit a solid single through the left side. Marten Gasparini followed with a bunt single down the third-base line to put runners on first and second. Lee hit a hard ground ball that Gilliam uncorked into left field trying to start a double play that scored Castellano to make it 4-1. Molina threw the ball away on the same play trying to get Gasparini at third which allowed Lee to get to second. Perez then balked to score Gasparini to make it 4-2 while Lee moved to third. Perez rebounded and struck out Gabriel Cancel and Kort Peterson. Chris Devito then singled home Lee to make the score 4-3. Emmanuel Rivera then chased home Devito with a triple to right field which tied the score at four. Meibrys Viloria singled to center field which brought Rivera home to make it 5-4 Legends.
Perez found more trouble in the fourth when he started off the inning plunking Castellano with a breaking ball. After Gasparini struck out, Lee singled to left to put runners on first and second. Perez was replaced with reliever Adonis Rosa. Rosa (4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 SO) struggled right out of the gate when Cancel rifled into the left-field corner that brought in both Castellano and Lee to make it 7-4 Lexington. Peterson then followed with a single to right field that brought Cancel in for an 8-4 Legends lead.
Despite the struggles for Perez, Charleston manager Pat Osborn saw good things on the mound from Perez. “I think he threw the ball well, but the third inning we didn’t play really good defense behind him, led to a crooked number. Then he balked which led to a score. I thought he throw the ball well. If we’re able to stop the bleeding there in the third inning, it’s a different game. But I liked what I saw; he threw strikes. Mixed his breaking ball and his changeup and his fastball was dominant.”
The RiverDogs put together a rally in the bottom of the eighth that was snuffed out by a strange play. With two outs, Molina and Florial singled off Legends reliever Jace Vines to put runners on first and second. Gilliam singled to bring in Molina to make it 8-5. Angel Aguilar came up to the plate and appeared to have singled in Florial. However, the umpire ruled that the ball clipped Gilliam in the basepath which resulted in the third out before the run scored.
In the bottom of the ninth, Charleston mounted another rally started by leadoff hitter Carlos Vidal singling to centerfield off Jace Vines who was attempting to finish a four-inning save for Lexington. Eduardo Navas followed with another single to put runners on first and second. Park followed with a 4-3 fielder’s choice that moved Vidal to third. Cabrera followed that with a RBI single to center field that scored Vidal to make it 8-6 Legends. With runners on first and second, Rutherford singled on a line drive to center field which scored Park to make it 8-7. Legends shortstop Castellano then took a relay throw from Gasparini in centerfield that he fired into the stands trying to get Cabrera advancing to third. As a result of the error, Cabrera scored tying the game at eight and putting Rutherford at third base. Leonardo Molina finished off the furious rally with a line drive to center field scoring Rutherford with the ninth run, resulting in the first win of the season for the RiverDogs.
“With baseball, you just never know. The inning before it looked like we had something going, but Gilliam gets hit with the line drive in the eighth and kind of kills the rally. Give credit to the guys, they didn’t stop playing and were able to mount another rally there in the ninth. And a huge play by Blake Rutherford by him getting third base which was the right call, they got to play the infield in now and creates more holes and Molina comes up big. Credit to the guys, they played to the last out, and we came out on top,” manager Pat Osborn said.
Vines ended up with the loss (0-1) for Lexington while Trevor Lane (1-0) earned the win for the RiverDogs pitching a perfect top of the ninth for the Dogs.
The win puts the RiverDogs at 1-1 on the season with the four-game set resuming Saturday night in Charleston against the Lexington Legends.