GREENSBORO, N.C. – Centerfielder Brandon Lockridge broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth inning, leading off the frame with his RiverDogs-leading ninth blast of the season to drive Charleston past the Grasshoppers, 4-3, in Monday night’s opener from First National Bank Field.
Canaan Smith tapped into his power stroke, drilling a 3-2 offering from the 7-game winner Brad Case with one out in the third, giving Charleston (31-26) their first lead with a three-run fly to right-center. It marked the former fourth-rounder’s fourth of the season, and his first since a longball completed the first RiverDogs cycle in 22 years on May 12 in Hickory. His .318 batting average and .899 OPS both rank tops on the RiverDogs team and top-10 in the league after Monday.
Lockridge’s go-ahead round tripper was the Troy University product’s third of the road trip with seven of his nine all coming in his last 21 games. Last year’s fifth-round selection by the Yankees had just one homer in 26 games in his pro debut last season and never tallied more than six in three seasons at the collegiate level.
Jhony Brito (3-0) closed out the final 3 1/3 innings without allowing a hit. One of his two baserunners on the night came in the ninth when he plunked Justin Harrer. The left fielder was lifted for a pinch-runner that moved up to second on an errant pickoff throw by Brito and to third on a ground out by Lolo Sanchez. Speedy second baseman Ji-hwan Bae poked a ground ball up to middle that shortstop Eduardo Torrealba played behind the second base bag, spun, and threw on to retire the native Korean for an impressive final out to end the ballgame.
Each starter threw the ball well in no-decision efforts. Luis Gil went 5 2/3 for Charleston, allowed three runs (two earned) with five strikeouts to three walks. Case entered play fifth in the league in ERA at 2.21 and saw it raise to 2.45 on the only hard contact he allowed all the night, the three-run blast to Smith in the third. He issued just his third walk in 66.0 innings this year to Smith in the first.