Charleston catcher Jason Lopez blasted off a game-tying, two-run shot in the eighth inning but the RiverDogs comeback fell to the wayside as the Grasshoppers rallied to win, 3-2, in a ninth inning walk-off in Thursday night’s series opener at First National Bank Field.
Charleston’s (6-8) offense was largely stagnant until the Venzuelan backstop charged his first long ball of the season out to right-center. Former second-rounder Ryan Lillie was on point for Greensboro (8-5), turning in seven shutout frames with eight strikeouts while filling up the zone with only one walk and two hits allowed.
Lillie faced the minimum through the seventh with the help of three double plays that stymied a handful of Charleston rallies, and the UC-Riverside product was in line for the win despite Nick Nelson nearly matching him pitch for pitch.
Following a start in which he struck out a career-best 12 Kannapolis batters in five innings last Friday, Nelson fanned eight more in six innings of two-run ball.
Greensboro didn’t get to the Floridian right-hander until the fourth when third baseman Micah Brown and catcher Michael Hernandez ripped back-to-back doubles, both with two outs. In the fifth, a leadoff walk scored on an RBI groundout by first baseman Eric Gutierrez.
Greg Weissert (0-1) logged two scoreless innings, including striking out the side in the eighth, before getting into trouble in the final frame. Centerfielder Zach Sullivan reached on a bunt single on the first pitch of the inning and was sacrificed over. A walk to Aaron Knapp forced the hand of the manager Julio Mosquera, who brought in Braden Bristo to get the final out. After hitting the first batter he faced, Gutierrez walked the Hoppers off with a single into left field.
Charleston looks for revenge with Greensboro in game two of a four-game series on Friday night at 7 p.m. Southpaw Dalton Lehnen (1-0, 2.45) gets the ball for Charleston and will be opposed by Marlins prospect and righty Taylor Braley (0-1, 5.40). The broadcast is available on 1250 WTMA in the tri-county area. Audio is also available on riverdogs.com and through the RiverDogs TuneIn radio app.