Designated hitter Isiah Gilliam went 3-for-4 and catcher Donny Sands collected three RBI to match a season-high as the RiverDogs offense pounded out seven runs in the first four innings as Charleston claimed their second straight win to clinch the three-game series over the Hagerstown Suns on Thursday night at Municipal Stadium.
Sands, Gilliam, and Brandon Wagner roped three straight two-out doubles in the third inning to push the RiverDogs out to a 6-2 advantage. Gilliam’s three-hit night was the third of the season for the Atlanta, Ga. native who pushed his team-leading RBI total out to 51 with the second of the three straight two-baggers.
The RiverDogs (48-42, 14-6) bullpen once again picked up the slack with Matt Frawley (5-1) and Trevor Lane combining for 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. The former Illinois-Chicago lefty Lane struck out four of the six batters he faced in two perfect innings of relief to pick up his second save.
The offensive barrage that included 12 hits marked the ninth time in the first 20 games since the All-Star break the Charleston offense put up at least seven runs with the first-place club averaging over six runs per game over that span.
Hagerstown (49-39, 11-8) jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first, tagging Charleston starter Nick Green for a pair of early runs. Centerfielder Blake Perkins and first baseman Aldrem Corredor each singled to start the early charge. After a fly out allowed the runners to tag up, shortstop Sheldon Neuse grounded out to first to bring home a run. Jake Noll walked, and a defensive miscue with Hoy Jun Park failing to cover second allowed Nick Banks to reach on an infield single and make it a 2-0 Suns lead.
Charleston tied the game in the second. After former Major Leaguer Francisco Rodriguez, fourth on the all-time saves list, posted a scoreless first, Estevan Florial smacked a triple down the right field line and scored on a Sands groundout. Gilliam and Wagner followed with singles before third baseman Mandy Alvarez bounced into a fielder’s choice that tied the ballgame at two apiece.
Lefty Tyler Watson (5-4) followed the former World Series champion and was chased after yielding the four in the third inning. Carlos Vidal welcomed reliever Steven Fuentes into the ballgame by serving a solo blast into right field for his first home run since August 21, 2015 with Pulaski, pushing Charleston out to their largest lead of the game, 7-2.
Hagerstown rallied with three in the fourth that included a two-run blast by left fielder Telmito Agustin, but were held in check by the bullpen the rest of the way.
Park collected a single off of the six-time All-Star Rodriguez to lead off the ballgame.
The RiverDogs go for the sweep of the Suns on Friday night at 7:05 from Municipal Stadium. Charleston will send right-hander Freicer Perez (5-3, 3.03) who has logged a 1.80 ERA in over 55 innings in his last 11 starts. The Suns will counter with righty Weston Davis (0-2, 5.73) in the finale before the RiverDogs head to Lakewood, N.J. to face the BlueClaws, the Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, for a three-game series starting on Saturday night. The game can be tuned in on “The Big Talker” WTMA 1250 AM and online streaming audio via riverdogs.com and the RiverDogs TuneIn Radio app station.