CHARLESTON, S.C. – Second baseman Kyle Gray’s two-run, go-ahead blast capped a five-run seventh inning comeback as the RiverDogs flew past Columbia, 5-3, on Sunday evening in front of 3,513 at Joe Riley Park.
The former West Virginia Mountaineer’s blast marked his third straight game with a homer and his first at The Joe after watching Saturday’s homestand opener from the dugout. Gray came up with a runner on first and one out after the RiverDogs (27-23) had knotted the game up at three apiece and hit a towering drive into the wind off the Ashley River that sailed out by plenty.
Left fielder Frederick Cuevas got the rally started, doubling into left off reliever Billy Oxford (0-2) before a missed catch error on a looping pop up to Shervyen Newton was dropped at second base to allow Max Burt to reach and put runners at the corners. Two batters later, catcher Eduardo Navas smashed a double over the head of right fielder Gerson Molina to plate a pair and brought the Dogs back within a run. After Eduardo Torrealba worked a walk, center fielder Brandon Lockridge’s sac fly tied the game up at 3-3 to set up Gray’s go-ahead round-tripper.
The win marked Charleston’s tenth victory in 13 tries over their closest in-state rival. The three-run deficit was the largest hole the RiverDogs have climbed out of in a win this season.
The early portion of the contest featured standout performances on the mound from both sides with Charleston’s Nolan Martinez and Columbia’s (19-31) Christian James matching each other pitch-for-pitch. In his first start after a relief outing in his debut Monday, the 20-year-old Martinez cruised in the Holy City pinstripes, retiring 13 in a row at one point after two out single in the first. He started to waiver in the sixth when his first pitch came inside to plunk catcher Juan Uriarte. Mets No. 2 prospect Ronny Mauricio made him pay for the mistake, lacing a 2-0 pitch into left field for a run-scoring double before an error allowed the Fireflies to add another in the frame as they led 2-0.
Right-hander Christian James painted the corners on the other side for Columbia, scattering four hits and striking out four to just a walk over six scoreless innings before Oxford gave up the lead.
First baseman Mickey Gasper went 3-for-4 in his fourth consecutive start as Charleston’s cleanup hitter. Reliever Bryan Blanton (1-1) closed out the victory with 3.1 innings of one-run ball.
The RiverDogs continue the homestand on Memorial Day, facing the Fireflies in game three of the four-game tilt at 5:05 p.m. Charleston will send right-hander Jio Orozco (4-2, 2.53) to the bump. The Arizona righty is coming off six innings with one-run allowed against Augusta on Monday. Columbia will throw Mets. No. 6 overall prospect Simeon Woods-Richardson (0-6, 6.89) in opposition.