HICKORY, N.C. – The RiverDogs’ bats stayed cold to start the second-half as they managed just two hits on Saturday night against Hickory and the Crawdads routed Charleston 8-1 to take a two game to one series lead at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Left fielder Canaan Smith enjoyed the only standout performance at the plate for Charleston (38-35, 1-2), going 2-for-3 with a walk and collecting the RiverDogs’ only hits with a pair of singles. Smith has now reached base in 33 of his last 36 games, dating back to the Dogs’ last trip to Hickory on May 11.
The RiverDogs lineup, which ranked top-5 in the league in most offensive categories during the first-half of the season, struggled to see Hickory (43-26, 2-1) starter Yerry Rodriguez (7-2, 1.77), who blanked the RiverDogs over the first seven frames and allowed just five total baserunners. The Dominican Republic product had not yielded a hit until Smith hit a ground ball back up the box with two outs in the fourth.
The Crawdads lineup, on the other hand, found the gaps all evening long, drilling all seven of their hits for extra bases. Second baseman Jax Biggers and center fielder Miguel Aparicio cranked a double and triple back-to-back to open the long night for Charleston in the bottom of the first, pushing the Rangers affiliate out to a 1-0 lead.
RiverDogs starter Nolan Martinez struggled with his control all night, including walking two and hitting another to load up the bases with nobody out in the third, in what would be the decisive frame for the Crawdads. First baseman Tyreque Reed stroked a sac fly to center to make it 2-0 before Pedro Gonzalez plated a pair with a double and catcher Matt Whately swatted the first pitch he saw in the inning for a two-run homer to cap the five-run frame. Martinez would come back out for one more inning, finishing with six runs allowed on just four hits, hampered by a season-high four walks issued.
Charleston avoided the shutout in the ninth, when Smith singled down the third base line and left fielder Kole Enright mishandled the ball to allow Josh Stowers to score from first. The RiverDogs’ right fielder began the inning by reaching on a four-pitch walk from reliever Tai Tiedemann.
Jhony Brito settled the game down, working 3 1/3 innings in relief with one run allowed, coming on back-to-back doubles by the Crawdads to start the sixth inning.
The RiverDogs go for the series split in Hickory on Sunday evening before heading to Rome for the final stop of the second-half opening road trip. In the finale, the RiverDogs will send righty Roansy Contreras (5-3, 4.57) to make his first start since the All-Star break. The 19-year-old, considered the Yankees’ No. 7 pre-season prospect byBaseball America, had a rocky finale before the season’s midpoint last Saturday at The Joe, allowing five runs in four innings against Greenville. Contreras’ roughest outing of the season came on May 13 at Hickory, when the Dominican Republic product gave up a season-high seven runs after being chased in the third inning. The Crawdads are slated to throw Rangers No. 1 overall prospect Hans Crouse (2-0, 3.35). The right-hander will make his first start since May 26 after being reassigned to Extended Spring Training. It will be Crouse’s first start against Charleston. First pitch is at 5:05 p.m.