HICKORY, N.C. – A pair of late home runs iced the game for the home-run heavy Crawdads lineup as they regrouped to top the RiverDogs 6-2 after a benches-clearing altercation in the bottom of the sixth inning on Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The Crawdads (42-26, 1-1), which led the South Atlantic League with 75 home runs entering play, added two more to the Rangers affiliate’s impressive total and reasserted their control of the game after Charleston (38-34, 1-1) plated a pair in the fourth to pull back within a run. Left fielder Kole Enright smashed a solo shot to right for his second in as many days in the series against Charleston before first baseman Sherton Apostel added a two-run fly of his own of the RiverDogs’ Luis Medina (1-5) in the sixth that started the controversy. Apostel threw his bat toward the Charleston dugout and the RiverDogs took offense to his slow trot around the bases. After mixing it up with Anthony Seigler at the plate, the benches cleared and at least one punch was thrown by designated hitter Melvin Novoa, who went after the RiverDogs catcher. After a lengthy delay, both Apostel and Novoa were ejected from the game.
After the dust settled, Daniel Bies calmed down the game with some much-needed relief for the Dogs, going three scoreless after Medina failed to record an out in the sixth, walking the leadoff man before giving up his second homer. The former Gonzaga Bulldog Bies struck out four in his third straight scoreless appearance since returning to the bullpen; the 6’8” righty has struck out 11 to just two walks over his last 8.0 innings in relief.
Coming off his best two starts of his career, Medina let the third inning get away from him after working the first two frames scoreless for Charleston. Catcher Matt Whatley led off the frame with a bloop single. After Frainyer Chavez struck out, second baseman Jax Biggers smoked a triple past a drawn-in infield to the right field corner to break the ice. After a strikeout of Enright, centerfielder Miguel Aparicio hit a shallow pop up on a bunt attempt down the line that Medina couldn’t handle for a base hit that scored another. Novoa cashed in an another extra-base hit, smashing a double into left to make it 3-0.
Thanks to some shaky defense from Hickory in the top of the fourth, the Dogs made a game of it to plate a pair unearned off Crawdads starter Tim Brennan (6-2). Chavez struggled to handle a couple of weak ground balls out to him at third, and a two-out error allowed Max Burt to load up the bases before Kyle Gray worked a walk to push across the RiverDogs’ first run. Seeing the shaky play out at the hot corner, designated hitter Frederick Cuevas tested the defense again with a bunt single to third that plated another. The 3-2 score would be the closest the Dogs would reach on the evening.
Because of two ejections to an already short-handed bench for Hickory, pitcher Nick Snyder was called upon to bat in the DH spot vacated by Novoa in the seventh. He took three pitches over for strikes from Bies to stay out of the double play and bring up a chance for Isaias Quiroz, who grounded out to third to end the two out threat in the seventh.