ROME, GA – Winning the first half title has its pluses and minuses and the Charleston RiverDogs knew they faced a tall task taking on the streaking Rome Braves to open begin their first playoff series in 11 seasons . Opening the postseason on the road, the RiverDogs dropped the first game of South Atlantic League Division series, 3-1, to the Rome Braves on Wednesday night at State Mutual Stadium.
Charleston matched Rome with eight hits, but couldn’t overcome some early misfortune to climb out of a 3-0 hole against a Braves club that won the Southern Division second half by finishing out the regular season going 20-6.
The RiverDogs had a great chance to score in the opening inning after getting back-to-back hits to open up the ballgame. Shortstop Kyle Holder ripped a base hit to right before designated hitter Vince Conde followed with a knock to the same field to put early runners on against former Braves first-rounder Mike Soroka (1-0) who had won his last six starts heading into the postseason. Third baseman Mandy Alvarez muscled a blooper into right field that Holder and Conde each hesitated on to make sure it fell in. The flair shot landed in front of right fielder Ray-Patrick Didder who scooped up and fired to second to catch Conde trying to advance for a force out. With runners now at the corners, Jhalan Jackson was grazed by a pitch inside to load up the bases for catcher Luis Torrens who ripped a line shot to short that began an inning ending double play.
Rome took advantage of their early opportunity, scoring twice in the bottom of the first to take the early lead. Didder singled to left and center fielder Ronald Acuna tripled to right-center to make it 1-0 Braves. Third baseman Austin Riley followed with a groundout to short that scored Acuna to make it 2-0 Rome after sending three men to the plate.
The Braves added a key insurance run in the third. Riley trickled a double down the right field line to begin the third before catcher Jonathon Morales singled to right two batters later to make it 3-0 Rome.
Soroka settled in after a shaky first, but the RiverDogs were able to get to the Canadian right-hander in the fifth. RiverDogs newcomer Estevan Florial laid down a bunt single to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher. After left fielder Ricardo Ferreira grounded out, Hoy Jun Park dumped a single to left center that cut the deficit to two. First baseman Kane Sweeney singled from the bottom of the order singled to keep the pressure on, but Holder grounded into a double play to short to prevent any further damage.
Down to their final out, Charleston brought the tying run to the plate when Florial doubled in the ninth. The 18-year-old outfielder’s fly ball hit to left was lost in the twilight by Braves shortstop Alejandro Salazar, but Ferreira struck out to end the ballgame.
RiverDogs starter Nick Green (0-1) took the loss in the postseason opener. The former Rangers prospect acquired by the Yankees in the Carlos Beltran deal at the trade deadline went five innings in just his sixth start with his new organization while allowing three runs on seven hits, walking a pair, and punching out two. The former 7th round pick by Texas was 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA in his three regular season starts with Charleston.
Hobie Harris and Dillon Tate combined for two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Now trailing 1-0, the RiverDogs face a tall task returning to Riley Park on Friday night for game two of the best-of-three series. Going back to 2005, the team that has won the first game of the SAL Divisional series has gone on to advance to the championship 77 percent of the time.
Postseason baseball returns to the Holy City on Friday night as the RiverDogs take on the Rome Braves in game two of the SAL Divisional Series at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park with the first pitch set for 7:05pm. Charleston sends RHP Daris Vargas (10-8, 2.95) as the Braves roll out former first-rounder LHP Kolby Allard (5-3, 3.73). It’s a “Gold Rush” at The Joe with every fan in attendance receiving a gold playoff t-shirt on a Budweiser Thirsty Friday featuring dollar beers in the Ashley View Pub. There will also be a postgame fireworks extravaganza presented by Home Telecom. The game will be broadcast on WTMA 1250 AM and streaming online at riverdogs.com.
Ticket information for the RiverDogs’ playoff games can be secured by contacting the box office at (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or online at www.riverdogs.com. Tickets for Game Two of the SAL Divisional Series on Friday, September, 9 at 7:05pm are now available. Those that can’t make it to the park can follow every pitch of the RiverDogs season on WTMA 1250 AM and streaming online at riverdogs.com.