Playoff baseball will return to Charleston. Designated hitter Dermis Garcia crushed a go-ahead three run homer in the eighth inning that powered the RiverDogs to a seven-run frame that solidified the second-half division crown as the RiverDogs swept the Crawdads in game three 10-5 at Joe Riley Park in front of 5,537.
The 2017 clinch marks the second time in a row the RiverDogs (75-60, 41-29) will head to the playoffs as they were first-half champs in 2016. Charleston last appeared in the playoff for back-to-back years in 2004-05. The win secures a spot in the best-of-three SAL Divisional Round starting on Wednesday, September 6 against Greenville at Riley Park.
With the two men ahead of him reaching via walks in the eighth, Garcia saw one pitch and cranked it out to left field for a three-run shot that gave the RiverDogs a 6-4 lead over Hickory (63-73, 36-30). With the bases loaded from two outs walks, third baseman Angel Aguilar and first baseman Brandon Wagner kept the action going with RBI hits to give the cushion of a 10-4 lead.
The go-ahead blast was Garcia’s second straight game with a go-ahead shot and his eighth since joining the RiverDogs finishes tied for the most in the South Atlantic in the month of August. The Dominican slugger now owns 17 long balls in 60 games on the year between Charleston and rookie-ball Pulaski since mid-June.
Prior to the explosive frame, Charleston tied the game at three apiece in a crucial seventh inning. Second baseman Oswaldo Cabrera led of the frame with a single then shortstop Diego Castillo put runners at the corners with a single. Left fielder Carlos Vidal ripped a game tying triple to left field making it 3-3 in his first game back after a nearly month-long stint on the disabled list.
The Crawdads took a short-lived lead after the RiverDogs tied it in the seventh. Catcher Yohel Pozo walked then scored as first baseman Andretty Cordero doubled to center making it 4-3 but that was erased by the RiverDogs eighth inning rally.
Freicer Perez had a rough start in the first inning surrendering two runs. The Dominican right-hander walked three men in the frame, hit a batter and surrendered a single that gave the Crawdads an early 2-0 lead. Hickory added another single tally in the third before Charleston managed a run on an RBI single by Cabrera, part of a 3-for-3 night where the 18-year-old Venezuelan reached base four times.
Hickory caused some trouble in the ninth as Luis Cedeno allowed one run on two hits and left with the bases loaded for Matt Wivinis to get the final out as the former indy baller struck out Cordero to wrap up the second-half division title and his fourth save of the year.
The RiverDogs wrapped up their final home game of the regular season with Fan Appreciation Nigh featuring dollar beers and presented by Budweiser. Postgame featured the final fireworks night of the season as well. The RiverDogs also announced the 2017 fan-voted “Top Dog”. Out fielder Isiah Gilliam received the most votes for his outstanding season and is this year’s “Top Dog”.
The RiverDogs hit the road for their final road trip of the regular season to Augusta starting on Thursday at 7:05. Charleston begins from Lake Olmstead Stadium sending right-hander Nick Nelson (3-11, 4.67) to face Augusta’s righty Raffi Vizcaino (4-7, 5.40). The game can be tuned into on “The Big Talker” WTMA 1250 AM and online with streaming audio via riverdogs.com and the RiverDogs’ TuneIn Radio app station.