CHARLESTON, S.C. – A leadoff home run by center fielder Brandon Lockridge got Charleston off on the right foot, as the Dogs snagged the series opener against the Augusta GreenJackets 5-1 Monday night with 4,324 in attendance at Joe Riley Park.
For an offense that had failed to score more than three runs in eight of 11 games since the All-Star Break, the leadoff bomb was sorely needed by the Charleston (43-39, 6-6) lineup. The RiverDogs finished the month of June with a .215 team batting average and .613 team OPS, both ranking as the worst marks in the South Atlantic League.
Starter Luis Gil (4-3, 1.90) spun a scoreless top half of the frame, and center fielder Brandon Lockridge stepped to the plate against Blake Rivera (4-6, 4.04). Lockridge turned on the first pitch thrown by Rivera and crushed it over the left field wall to give Charleston a 1-0 lead just one pitch into the bottom of the first. Shortstop Max Burt followed with an RBI single that plated Canaan Smith, doubling Charleston’s lead later in the fame.
The shot marked the 11th of the season for Lockridge, and the first home run by a RiverDogs hitter at home since the Troy product parked his 10th in the bottom of the eighth inning on June 14, an eventual 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Greenville Drive. The Pensacola native’s home run also marked the seventh of the season for him when leading off an inning, breaking a tie with West Virginia’s Onil Pena for the most in the SAL in that category.
Gil, making his 14th start of the year Monday evening, took the early run support and ran with it. He threw a clean second before running into a minor jam in the top of the third. After fanning Jose Layer to lead off the frame, he surrendered a triple to leadoff hitter Ismael Munguia, and a soft single to right field by Anyesber Sivira cut the Dogs’ lead to 2-1. Gil didn’t let the frame unravel, though, setting the next two GreenJackets (43-37, 7-5) down on strikes.
The Dominican-born hurler settled down following the third and didn’t look back, throwing 2 1/3 additional scoreless frames before being lifted by manager Julio Mosquera in favor of southpaw Dalton Lehnen. Gil entered Monday’s contest holding down the top spot in the SAL in swinging strike percentage, inducing a swing-and-miss on 17.6 percent of his 1,134 total pitches. He finished his night with seven strikeouts in his 5 1/3 innings of work, giving him 97 on the season as well as the league-lead, and he coaxed 16 empty swings from the GreenJackets. His already league-leading ERA dropped even further to 1.90 in his effort to top off his strong outing.
The Dogs tacked on three more insurance runs in the fifth and seventh innings, on an RBI single by Josh Stowers, a run-scoring groundout by Anthony Seigler, and a wild pitch uncorked by Blake Rivera on the other side of the seventh-inning stretch.
Lefty Dalton Lehnen and right-hander Jefry Valdez pitched in relief of Gil, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings with a punchout between the two to seal Charleston’s sixth win of the second half, as well as its third victory over the GreenJackets this season.
For the first time since May 27, Dog Day Monday made its return to Joe Riley Park. Those who came out to support the RiverDogs on Monday night brought their furry friends out to the park, and the promo team had water bowls set up throughout the concourse to complete the night for “Man’s Best Friend.” Fans enjoyed $1 Busch Lights and $1 hot dogs up on the Ashley View Pub to cap off the Riley Park experience, as well. The RiverDogs also honored active and retired military members and their families for their commitment and sacrifice to our country as part of the second Military Appreciation Night of the season presented by Boeing.