CHARLESTON, S.C. – The RiverDogs rode a big sixth inning, a frame that saw 13 Charleston hitters come to the plate, en route to a 9-6 victory in front of 3,679 Tuesday night at Joe Riley Park.
Until the sixth inning, it was a fairly pedestrian start for both clubs, as Charleston (46-43, 9-10) and Rome (40-48, 10-9) entered the bottom of the frame tied at one run apiece.
The RiverDogs exploded in their half of the inning, sending 13 men to the plate and scoring eight times. Brandon Lockridge led off the inning against Braves starter Alan Rangel (7-5, 5.19) with a grounder up the middle for a single, his first hit of the night. Oswald Peraza, making his Charleston debut, followed with a single of his own before Anthony Seigler put a perfect bunt down to give Charleston two runners in scoring position for Josh Stowers.
The Dogs right fielder drew the second walk issued by Rangel to load the bases as Canaan Smith stepped to the plate. The Texas-born outfielder lined a 2-1 pitch from Rangel into the right-center field gap, clearing the bases and giving Charleston a 4-1 lead. The Dogs were far from finished, though. Oliver Dunn and Eric Wagaman followed Smith’s double with a single and a double, respectively, driving home a couple more. For Wagaman, it was his third hit of his first game back at Riley Park since May 9, and his first three-hit game of the season.
Wagaman’s double chased Rangel from the game, and Braves manager Matt Tuiasosopo turned to Ryan Shetter out of his bullpen. The Texas Tech product provided little relief, allowing three more run-scoring hits to Welfrin Mateo, Lockridge and Peraza before striking out Anthony Seigler to finally put the inning to rest. Charleston led the contest 9-1 by the time the final out of the frame was recorded, and the eight runs scored marked the most in one inning this season.
The RiverDogs’ first run was scored in the bottom of the third inning, when Eric Wagaman, leading off the frame against Rangel, lined the first pitch he saw off the batter’s eye in center field for his third home run of the season. It was also just the fifth game since the All-Star Break that the RiverDogs had cracked the scoreboard first.
Rome mounted something of a rally in the top of the eighth inning, plating five runs against Charlie Ruegger to bring the contest to a save situation with a 9-6 score. Ruegger, making his second appearance of the season for Charleston, walked Shea Langeliers to lead off the inning, but struck out Griffin Benson and Greg Cullen immediately after the free pass. The righty proceeded to allow the next five Braves to reach before finally retiring Braden Shewmake to end the inning.
Jefry Valdez was the second RiverDogs arm out of the pen in the ninth inning, and he nailed down the save to seal Charleston’s 9th win of the second half and 46th overall.
The outburst was a sight for sore eyes regarding a struggling Charleston offense, as the RiverDogs hitters had entered Tuesday’s action ranked 11th in the SAL in hitting with a .230 team batting average. Following the series-opening victory, Charleston will try for its second series win of the second half Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday night was all about Helen McGuckin at Riley Park. Let us explain; in May of 2018, the RiverDogs received a less-than-stellar review on Google by McGuckin that read, “Just drove by, 2 out of 5 stars.” The Charleston gameday staff went all out to make sure she would have a night to remember, and maybe deserving of a five-star review to replace the old one. It was also another Food Lion Live and Local Tuesday down at The Joe, featuring the brand-new BellyItcher Ale brewed in conjunction with Rusty Bull. Fans walked around the concourse before and during the game and took in the sights and smells of the farmers’ market set up throughout Riley Park.