CHARLESTON, S.C. - After plating just a single run in Friday night's contest, Charleston's offense was looking to bounce back in Saturday night's tilt. It did just that, cruising to a 7-0 win over the Asheville Tourists behind seven dominant innings from Opening Night starter Roansy Contreras in front of 4,230 at Joe Riley Park.
On the first Copa de la Diversion night for the RiverDogs (34-28), Eduardo Torrealba, Kyle Gray, and 2019 South Atlantic League All-Star Brandon Lockridge led the offensive charge. The three Charleston hitters led Los Perros Santos to a 4-0 lead by the time the final out of the fourth had been made.
Contreras (5-3, 4.12) and Nick Bush (3-5, 5.79) traded scoreless halves through the first two innings, frames that saw the Dogs starter face the minimum with some help of his defense. Will Golsan led off the game with a single and advanced to second on a groundout by the Rockies No. 13 overall prospect Terrin Vavra. Niko Decolati stepped to the plate, trying to get his club on the board first.
Instead, he struck out swinging and Golsan was cut down at third base, making a bid for his ninth stolen base of the season. He became the third attempted base-stealer since the beginning of last night's contest to be thrown out by Eduardo Navas. Navas' defensive showing the past couple of nights is nothing new; the Venezuela native had thrown out 48 percent of would-be base-stealers over his first five Minor League seasons.
Gray plated the first run for the RiverDogs in the home half of the third, driving home Eduardo Torrealba, who singled to lead off the frame and advance to third on a double by Lockridge, on an RBI groundout.
Lockridge and Torrealba were the catalysts for the next three Perros Santos runs in the fourth. Singles by Max Burt and Matt Pita sandwiching a sacrifice bunt by Frederick Cuevas set up runners on the corners and one out for Torrealba. Pita swiped second during the shortstops at-bat, and Torrealba then came through with a single off the glove of Coco Montes that plated his two teammates.
Charleston wasn't finished, as Lockridge came through with his second double of the game, and 20th of the season, to send Torrealba home and give Charleston a 4-0 lead. Lockridge became just the fourth RiverDog since 2011 to hit 20 two-baggers before the All-Star Break, and the first since Greg Bird accomplished the feat in 62 games back in 2013.
The support was more than enough for Contreras, who pitched seven innings for the third time this season, all coming in his last four starts. The righty out of the Dominican Republic finished with seven shutout frames, allowing just four hits and two walks against three punchouts to down the Asheville Tourists (26-36).
Riley Pint came on in relief for the Tourists in the bottom of the sixth and unraveled completely after striking out Frederick Cuevas to start the frame. The Rockies' 2016 first-rounder allowed the final three Charleston runs on four walks, including four wild pitches.
With the win, the RiverDogs will be at least 1.5 games clear of the second-place Lexington Legends entering play Sunday with eight games to play in the first half.
Saturday night marked the first of four games this season that the Charleston RiverDogs become "Los Perros Santos de Charleston," in honor of MiLB's Copa de la Diversion initiative to celebrate the LatinX community. Fans were able to get autographs before the game started, and they were treated to a piñata party during the game as well. The Dogs wore special Perros Santos jerseys and caps designed specifically to meld with Saturday night's theme.
MiLB's Copa de la Diversión continues Sunday night, as the RiverDogs will play the fourth and final game of the series as Los Perros Santos de Charleston. Come out to the park and meet Dora the Explorer on an MUSC Health Family Sunday at The Joe. Nolan Martinez (1-0, 1.15) looks to continue the dominance he has exhibited through his first three appearances this season with Charleston, most recently a strong seven-inning effort against the Lexington Legends. He shut Lexington out through the seven frames, allowing just two hits and striking out four. Opposing Martinez will be Shelby Lackey (1-6, 6.09), trying to get back on track after having allowed at least three runs in each of his last seven starts.