Charleston right-hander Janson Junk pounded the strike zone in a career-best performance and a pair of two-run home runs from catcher Eduardo Navas and third baseman Dermis Garcia lifted the RiverDogs to a 5-1 series-opening victory over the Columbia Fireflies on Tuesday night at Spirit Communications Park.
After stretching out over his first three professional starts, Junk (1-1) rolled through the Columbia (28-27) lineup in his longest outing since being drafted in 2017. The Seattle University product fanned a career-best seven over seven strong innings of one-run ball while filling up the zone, throwing a first pitch strike to 21 of the 24 batters he faced and throwing 63 of his 86 pitches for strikes.
The Washington State native was perfect the first time through the lineup and yielded just three hits all night. His biggest mistake resulted in a two-out, solo home run in the seventh from Matt Winaker that temporarily trimmed the lead to 3-1.
The RiverDogs (27-29) broke up the scoreless tie in the fourth. Recently named All-Star outfielder Steven Sensley roped his 15th double of the season to center and scored when fellow All-Star Chris Hess hustled out an infield hit rolled to short that Edgardo Fermin skipped past first to allow Sensley to cross the plate with two outs.
In the seventh, Navas ripped his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to the berm in right field to stretch the Holy City’s advantage to 3-0. It marked just the third professional homer in over 220 minor league games and his second at Spirit Communications Park. Left fielder Leonardo Molina doubled with one out in the at-bat prior.
In the eighth, Charleston received some long ball support from a more familiar source when Garcia roped his second of the season, a shot to the left-center alley to plate Sensley who had previously reached on a one-out walk.
Righty Dalton Higgins retired six in a row in relief to secure the victory in the opener of Charleston’s six-day Palmetto State road trip.
Hess and Navas each collected multi-hit games in the effort. It was just the second game of the season in 12 meetings with the Fireflies decided by more than two runs. Charleston controls the season series, 7 games to 5.
Charleston continues the series in the Capital City, facing the Fireflies in game two of three on Wednesday night. The RiverDogs will send Citadel product and lefty JP Sears (0-4, 2.25) to the bump to face Columbia right-hander Tony Dibrell (2-2, 3.88). Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on 1250 WTMA in the tri-county area, with audio available at riverdogs.com and the RiverDogs TuneIn radio station.