Jaron Long’s career-high seven shutout innings highlighted a pitchers’ duel that closed on a bases-loaded walk for Michael O’Neill, giving the Charleston RiverDogs a 1-0 victory in ten innings over the Savannah Sand Gnats on Monday night in front of 5,123 fans at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in South Atlantic League action.
The RiverDogs have a 20-16 record and are four games above .500 for the first time this season. Charleston leads this series by a 2-1 margin over the Sand Gnats, who are now 24-11.
Dueling shutout bids for Charleston and Savannah carried nearly all of Monday’s action. Long represented the home side with the longest start of his career as he held the Sand Gnats scoreless. He retired eight consecutive batters twice, with one of those streaks coming after a one-out fifth-inning triple by Victor Cruzado. Long struck out Matt Oberste and Jeff Glenn to clean up his only jam and quickly retired the side in his final two innings to close his start.
Kevin McGowan’s six shutout innings opened Savannah’s night on the mound. In the second and third innings, he stranded runners at first and second with inning-ending strikeouts. McGowan successfully retired the final 11 batters that he faced in his own quality start.
Akeel Morris relieved McGowan and stretched that streak to 16 straight RiverDogs retired until Charleston threatened to score late in the eighth. With two outs, Brandon Thomas was hit by a pitch and reached second base on a passed ball. Morris finished the frame with a strikeout and kept the game scoreless heading into the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, the RiverDogs nearly won the game against John Mincone. O’Neill got on base after a strikeout coupled with a wild pitch. O’Neill made it to second on Miguel Andujar’s one-out single and reached third on an Eduardo de Oleo fly out. However, Mincone sent the contest to extra innings with a strikeout that closed the ninth inning.
RiverDogs newcomers Rony Bautista and Chris Smith combined for scoreless pitching behind Long until Charleston walked to a win. Jose Rosario hit a two-out double to put the potential winning run in scoring position. Aaron Judge was intentionally walked to fill first base to set up Mike Ford, who loaded the bases with a walk of his own. O’Neill, the potential winning run in the ninth, took a ball on a full count against Mincone to force in Rosario and end the game.
Smith is 1-0 after earning the victory in his affiliated baseball debut. Mincone was tagged with the loss and has an 0-1 record this season.
BALLPARK FUN: Children and charity highlighted Monday’s activity at The Joe. Youth Baseball Night, presented by McDonald’s, welcomed scores of youth baseball teams that took part in a pregame parade around the warning track. “Dogs with a Cause” supported the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry while Play It Again Sports Mt. Pleasant collected used baseball equipment to donate to Pass It Forward Sports, a local charitable organization that helps underprivileged kids participate in organized youth sports.
COMING UP: The finale of this four-game series is set for Tuesday evening at 7:05pm. Charleston RHP Luis Severino (1-1, 2.32 ERA) will face Savannah RHP Ricky Knapp (2-2, 2.83 ERA). On Harris Teeter 2-for-$20 Date Night, couples who show their VIC card at the box office can receive two tickets, two tacos, two fountain drinks, and a nacho tray for only $20. Tickets may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or on-line atwww.riverdogs.com. If fans cannot make it to the ballpark, they are encouraged to tune in to all the action this year both home and away worldwide on www.riverdogs.com and locally on 1250 WTMA, the new radio home for RiverDogs baseball.