Dante Bichette, Jr. hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning as the Charleston RiverDogs escaped with an 8-7 victory over the Savannah Sand Gnats in South Atlantic League action on Saturday night at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in front of 4,595.
The RiverDogs moved to 38-23 with this win and they have won the first two games of the series with the Sand Gnats whose record stands at 35-26.
Charleston started the inning trailing 7-5, but Kelvin De Leon got things started with a lead-off double. After an out and walk, Mason Williams singled to score one run and the tying run moved to third, with Williams taking second on the throw. A groundout by Cito Culver brought in the tying run and then Bichette (2-5, RBI, run) came up and ended the game.
"That was a big win, especially falling behind early," said manager Carlos Mendoza. "We fell behind, but the bullpen was really good. We were facing a really good lefty. The guys kept putting together good at-bats and Dante got the walk-off. That was a big win."
A major reason that the rally was possible in the ninth was the performance of RiverDogs reliever John Brebbia (1-0). Brebbia pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, striking out five. Savannah loaded the bases against him in the ninth, but he proceeded to strike out the next three batters to keep the deficit at two.
The Sand Gnats took advantage of an error in the fourth to put up a four spot in the inning. A single, an error and a walk loaded the bases with two outs and T.J. Rivera (2-6, 2 RBI, run) hit a grounder through the left side for a single that scored two. Maron (3-6, 2 RBI) followed by hitting one into the right field corner for a two-run triple.
The RiverDogs immediately answered against pitcher Alex Panteliodis. Williams doubled to start the bottom of the fourth, Culver walked, and Bichette Jr. singled, loading the bases for Gary Sanchez. It only took one swing for Sanchez (2-4, HR 4 RBI, run) to tie the game. He hammered one over the wall in left-center for his second grand slam of the season. It was also the RiverDogs fourth slam as a team in 2012.
Savannah proved resilient, however, and regained the lead in the fifth. Singles by Charlie Thurber and Gilbert Gomez (3-5, 2 RBI) each drove in runs, putting Savannah up 6-4 and knocking starter Will Oliver out of the game.
A run in the sixth cut the lead to one, as three singles, the last one by Francisco Arica, pushed across the fifth run of the night for Charleston, but the Sand Gnats got it right back in the seventh when Brian Harrison singled and eventually came in to score on a fielders choice.
After their run in the sixth, the RiverDogs were held scoreless by Savannah relievers Carlos Vazquez and Jared West. T.J. Chism (1-2) came in to try and close the game in the ninth, but couldn't shut the door, ending up with his first blown save of the year.