LAKEWOOD, N.J. – Charleston’s lineup broke out of their recent slump, championed by a 3-for-3 night at the plate by left fielder Canaan Smith, before sloppy field conditions derailed the road trip opener as the BlueClaws outlasted the RiverDogs, 8-6, Tuesday night at First Energy Park.
In a night punctuated by a steady drizzle from the early innings on, the contest went back-and-forth with six lead changes before the BlueClaws (40-60, 11-19) took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh. Left-hander Dalton Lehnen struggled to find a consistent landing point on the mound in the frame and issued four straight walks while dealing four wild pitches that saw Lakewood pull in front 7-6. Nearby Toms River product Ron Marinaccio entered the game and allowed an RBI single to Malvin Matos, Lakewood’s first hit of the inning, to make it 8-6 for the Phillies affiliate. He would walk the fifth batter of the inning before retiring the next two batters to usher the game through the requisite seven innings before the game was put into a 51-minute delay by the umpiring crew.
Smith had a terrific night amid the less than ideal conditions, reaching in all five trips to the plate with three singles and a pair of walks. The Rockwall, Texas native knocked in his 50th run of the season with a line drive single to left in the seventh, pushing the RiverDogs (50-52, 13-19) in front 6-5 at the time. He had entered play ranking second in the league with a .401 on-base percentage. He would have come up with a chance to bat for a sixth time had the RiverDogs not gone done quietly in the ninth.
Catcher Mickey Gasper provided the spark for the Dogs offense early. After leaving eight men stranded over the first four innings and failing to take advantage of five early walks dealt by BlueClaws starter Taylor Lehman, right fielder Josh Stowers brought Smith home on a run-scoring double to the right field corner to tie the game at one apiece in the fifth. Gasper, a resident of nearby Highland Park in the offseason, uncorked a two-run blast to deep right field in front of friends and family to put Charleston in front for the first time, 3-1. After Lakewood answered with two of their own to tie it in the bottom half, Gasper stepped up with the bases loaded and one gone in the sixth and laced the next offering he saw into right for an RBI single in what would be the Holy City’s only run in the sixth, giving them a brief 4-3 lead.
After Gasper’s heroics, Lakewood took back control on a two-run homer by Cole Stobbe, leading to Jhony Brito’s exit in the sixth. Making his third consecutive start after 13 relief appearance to open the season, Brito failed to make it through the sixth for the first time, finishing with five runs allowed (four earned) in 5 1/3 frames.
Former Yankee farmhand Gilmael Troya (4-0), selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft by the Phillies this past winter, gave up the game’s tying run on a wild pitch and the go-ahead knock to Smith to eventually be credited with the win. Mark Potter worked two scoreless frames after the delay to garner his fifth save.
Charleston outhit the BlueClaws 14-9, the club’s biggest hit total since a May 22 contest in Asheville. Both teams had at least 15 opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position apiece; the RiverDogs went 4-for-18 in situational hitting. Charleston tied a season-high by leaving 14 men stranded on base.