Second baseman Oswaldo Cabrera slugged a three-run shot in the ninth inning that pulled the RiverDogs within two, but Columbia fended off a late rally to hand Charleston a 6-4 loss to open a road trip on Monday night at Spirit Communications Park.
The Venezuelan teenager Cabrera drove in all four RiverDogs runs in the loss, including blasting this third longball of the season as part of a 1-for-4 night. A five-run third by the Fireflies (58-53, 18-25) would be too big a hole to climb out of for the first-place RiverDogs (61-52, 27-16) who remain atop the division by four games over Rome despite the loss.
Charleston righty Christian Morris fanned a career-high eight in three scoreless innings of relief, keeping the RiverDogs in the ballgame after a short start from Nick Green (7-8) who yielded the big inning and took the loss.
The RiverDogs took the lead in the second inning starting with left fielder Dalton Blaser’s double, part of a 3-for-4 performance. The Cal State Fullerton product moved up on a passed ball and scored when Cabrera hit into a fielder’s choice that prompted a late throw home that plated Blaser to make it 1-0 Charleston.
Columbia wasted no time answering in the bottom half. Left fielder Ian Strom clubbed his first homer of the year, a leadoff shot to left that tied the game at one apiece.
The Fireflies broke open the game in the fifth when five straight Columbia batters reached with one out including go-ahead knock by Strom that gave Columbia a 2-1 lead. First baseman Dan Rizzie and Arnaldo Berrios each collected run-scoring hits in what would be Green’s final inning.
Charleston’s Opening Night starter when three or fewer innings for the second straight start, allowing six runs on six hits with three strikeouts and a walk. The Colorado righty has now yielded 15 runs (14 earned) over his last two starts, both against Columbia. Fireflies righty Justin Brantley (1-0) spun seven innings of four-hit ball, allowing one unearned run to pick up his first win.
The RiverDogs continue the series with Columbia in game two on Tuesday at 7:05 from Spirit Communications Park. The RiverDogs will roll out right-hander Freicer Perez (7-3, 2.95). The Fireflies will counter with righty Darwin Ramos (2-4, 4.64). The game can be tuned into on “The Big Talker” WTMA 1250 AM and online streaming audio via riverdogs.com and the RiverDogs TuneIn Radio app station.