Charleston reliever Phil Wetherell got two big outs with the tying runner at second base in the top of the ninth inning to finish the game and preserve a 9-8 victory for the RiverDogs over the Hickory Crawdads in South Atlantic League play on Sunday evening in front of 3,317 fans at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.
With the win, the RiverDogs improve to 18-15 on the season, and move into a tie for fourth place in the Southern Division, just 2.5 games behind the first place Savannah Sand Gnats. Hickory, now 19-16, remains in second place in the Northern Division.
RiverDogs starting pitcher Evan Rutckyj was roughed up for four runs on four hits in the top of the first inning including a three-run homer by Ryan Rua and an RBI double by Jordan Akins, but he hung in there settled down nicely to get through five innings. He finished with five runs allowed, all earned, on six hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. Rutckyj picked up the win to go to 4-2 on the year, and becomes the first RiverDog pitcher to get to four wins this season.
With Hickory on top 4-0 in the bottom of the third, Charleston's offense exploded for seven runs on six hits. With the starter Tyler Smith still in the game for the Crawdads, Greg Bird drove in a pair of runs with his first triple of the year, Peter O'Brien plated a run with a single to right field, and Kelvin DeLeon brought in another with an RBI double to left field to tie the game at 4. Hickory then went to the bullpen and brought in reliever Coby Cowgill.
The next batter was Reymond Nunez, and he greeted Cowgill rudely with a three-run homer over the left field wall to untie the game and give Charleston a 7-4 lead they would not relinquish.
Hickory bounced back in the fifth inning on Rua's second homer of the game, his eighth of the year, to cut the deficit to 7-5.
Derek Varnadore had his best outing of the year for the RiverDogs with two scoreless innings of relief in the seventh and the eighth, with one hit allowed and two strikeouts.
Charleston put up two big insurance runs in the eighth inning on Yeicok Calderon's RBI single and Nunez's RBI single. Nunez finished the night 2-4 with a homer and four RBI's, his second straight game with multiple hits, a homer, and four RBI's. Peter O'Brien also chipped with two base knocks as he finished 2-4 with a double, an RBI, and two runs scored.
The Crawdads did not go quietly into the night as they scored three runs in the top of the ninth on a Jorge Alfaro three-run homer off RiverDogs reliever Ben Paullus to cut the lead to just one run and make it 9-8 game. The next batter Rua singled to put the tying run aboard with only one out. However, Charleston brought in Phil Wetherell out of the bullpen and he shut the door on Hickory with a strikeout of Joey Gallo, and then induced a groundout to second from Nomar Mazara to close it out for the Dogs.