CHARLESTON, S.C. – A late two-run single by shortstop Eduardo Torrealba broke a 2-2 tie and backed a strong start from Roansy Contreras to lead the RiverDogs to an 8-3 win over the Columbia Fireflies Saturday night in front of 5,625 at Joe Riley Park.
Torrealba’s single wasn’t hit hard, but it did the job. Mitchell Robinson led off the inning with his fifth walk of the season, but the rally looked like it would end just as quickly as it started when Eduardo Navas followed with a routine ground ball to Ronny Mauricio at shortstop.
Mauricio’s throw to Shervyen Newton was wide, allowing Robinson to advance to third base and Navas to second. Torrealba came through a ground ball back up the middle and through a drawn-in Fireflies (19-30) infield to give Charleston (26-23) a 4-2 lead off Columbia reliever Bryce Hutchinson (2-2, 2.65).
Contreras (4-2, 4.66) was looking to build off his last start against the Augusta GreenJackets, when he allowed three runs in seven innings on May 19. He did one better, completing seven frames for the second straight start and allowing just two runs on eight hits. The Fireflies were able to get on the board against Contreras in the second inning, on the strength of an RBI single by Juan Uriarte.
Columbia would build upon that lead in the top of the fourth, again on a single by Uriarte. A great throw from left fielder Canaan Smith nabbed Gerson Molina trying to go first-to-third on the play, and after a two-out knock by Wagner Lagrange, Contreras worked his way out of the jam, inducing a lineout to second baseman Ricky Surum off the bat of Chandler Avant.
Charleston had a tough time against Columbia starter Colin Holderman early, not unlike Holderman’s last start at The Joe when he threw 5.1 innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits and two walks on May 10. Holderman worked four scoreless innings to start Saturday’s contest, including an impressive stretch that saw six consecutive RiverDogs go down on strikes.
He ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth, when Surum reached on a leadoff walk and Torrealba on a single that sent Surum to third. The Dogs’ white-hot leadoff man Brandon Lockridge was next, and he came through with a single of his own to get Charleston on the board and cut Columbia’s lead in half. Later in the frame, Stowers got the equalizer across with a line drive single to center field, plating Torrealba.
Following Torrealba’s tie-breaking knock in the sixth, Charleston would score four more times in the seventh and eighth, on another single by Lockridge, a double by Frederick Cuevas, a wild pitch by Columbia reliever Chris Viall, and a caught-stealing play when Stowers scampered home on Max Burt’s attempted robbery of second base.
One of many feel-good moments of the night happened in the top of the eighth, when righty Tanner Myatt made his first appearance since April 18, sealing the 8-3 win with two innings of one-run ball.
With the victory, Charleston improved to 9-3 against the Fireflies in the 12th meeting between the two clubs in 2019. Charleston remains in first-place for a 23rd consecutive day, leading the Rome Braves by 1.0 game in the Southern Division first-half standings.
Saturday night’s opener against the Fireflies was filled to the brim with activities and surprises for everyone. The youngsters in attendance got autographs from their favorite RiverDogs, and as part of the first Military Appreciation night, all active and retired military members enjoyed free admission, and one military ID was good for four free vouchers for family members. The Hero of the Game, Boatswain’s Mate First Class Casey Cann, topped it off by surprising his two daughters on the field before first pitch, coming home early from his deployment. Fans also waited on pins and needles for the second postgame helicopter ball drop of the season, anxiously hoping that the ball that corresponded to the ticket they received on the way in would land closest to home plate. The winner walked away with $2,000.
After taking the first of the four-game set Saturday night, righty Nolan Martinez (0-0, 3.00) will make his second appearance and first start of the season. Martinez was recalled from Extended Spring Training on May 18 and impressed in his season debut, nailing down his first career save with three innings of one-run ball to close out a 5-2 win over the Augusta GreenJackets on May 20. Opposing Martinez will be Christian James (1-4, 5.18), coming off a strong outing of his own when he threw five innings of two-run ball against the Greenville Drive on May 21.