A mistake-ridden, four-run sixth would prove the difference in the ballgame as the Charleston RiverDogs fell, 5-4, to the West Virginia Power on Wednesday afternoon’s series finale in front of an Education Day crowd of 5,578 at Joe Riley Park.
Charleston’s defense entered play having committed the fewest errors in the South Atlantic League circuit but matched a season-high with three defensive blunders, one of which came in the four-run frame that helped push the Pirates affiliate out to a 5-1 lead that they would hold for good.
After an RBI double by first baseman Mason Martin gave the Power (7-6) a 2-1 lead in the inning, a costly dropped fly ball in left by Frederick Cuevas would extend the frame and allow West Virginia to hang a crooked number. After the two-base error allowed Oneil Cruz to reach, designated hitter Kyle Watson, left fielder Chris Sharpe, and centerfielder and Pirates No. 10 prospect Lolo Sanchez all ripped consecutive RBI singles with two outs to stretch the advantage to 5-1.
First baseman Chris Hess continued his hot start to the season, blasting his team-leading fourth home run to tie the game at one in the fourth.
Shaky pitching by reliever Joel Cesar opened the door for the RiverDogs (6-7) in the seventh. The Dominican arm walked four batters to help the RiverDogs score three, including an RBI knock by shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera that brought Charleston within a run.
The RiverDogs left the tying and go-ahead runs stranded in the ninth when right fielder Steven Sensley went down swinging for the fifth time in the ballgame.
Charleston starter Rony Garcia (0-1) gave up five runs of which only two were earned to suffer the loss. Southpaw Domingo Robles (1-1) was brilliant for West Virginia, striking out nine over six innings with just two hits allowed and only the one big mistake to Hess.
The RiverDogs crowd had a youthful energy as Charleston hosted its first of two “Education Days” at Riley Park. An estimated 5,000 students from the Lowcountry arrived energized for the 11:05 a.m. start. Joe Riley Park got its loudest roar of the season when “Who’s Louder: Boys or Girls?” was played during the early innings.
Charleston hits the road once more as they hit the road for a four-game weekend series with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, beginning on Thursday at 7 p.m. Righty Nick Nelson (0-1, 10.80) will make his encore appearance following a career-high 12 strikeout performance his last time out. Nelson will be countered by right-handed Ryan Lillie (0-0, 5.00). The broadcast is available on 1250 WTMA in the tri-county area. Audio is available on riverdogs.com and through the RiverDogs TuneIn radio app.