CHARLESTON, S.C. – Following a pair of low-scoring victories over the second-place Hickory Crawdads, the RiverDogs brought the lumber in the series opener against the Northern Division-leading Delmarva Shorebirds, taking game one 6-3 in front of 4,625 raucous fans at Joe Riley Park.
Mickey Gasper, starting behind the plate Saturday night, drove in a career-high five runs out of the five-spot in the Charleston (56-56, 19-23) batting order, including a late two-run homer over the right field wall to extend Charleston’s 4-3 lead to the eventual 6-3 final. Following a strikeout of Canaan Smith, Josh Stowers forced six pitches out of Juan Echevarria to draw a base on balls, the seventh free pass allowed by the Shorebirds (75-35, 27-13) pitching corps.
Smith continued his tear through South Atlantic League pitching Saturday evening, reaching three more times with a single in fifth and two walks, raising his on-base percentage to .424 and his batting average to .326, tying catcher Jesus Montero’s mark set in 2008, which stands as the highest single-season average in RiverDogs history.
Stowers swiped second base for his second stolen base of the game, and 28th of the season, as Gasper stood at the dish against Echevarria. The Bryant product forced a full count against the Delmarva reliever before cranking the sixth pitch of the at-bat over the right field wall for a no-doubt, two-run bomb.
Gasper also drove in a pair on a tie-breaking two-run single against the shift in the bottom of the fifth, plating Oswald Peraza and Eric Wagaman, as well as an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning off Orioles 2018 first-rounder Grayson Rodriguez that chased Peraza to home plate to back starter Josh Maciejewski (1-1, 2.25), making his second start of the season against the top team in the SAL.
Coming off a six-inning, one-run performance in his first outing against Delmarva, the southpaw was just as impressive in his home debut. He worked six frames once more, allowing just two runs on five hits. The Shorebirds’ two runs off Maciejewski came in the fourth and fifth innings, on a sacrifice fly by Doran Turchin and a double play grounded into by Zach Watson that also allowed Seamus Curran to score.
The only run Charleston produced that didn’t come by way of Gasper was in the bottom of the third, when Wagaman flared a single to center field to drive Stowers home. After going a combined 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position the last two games against Hickory, the Dogs came through with four such hits against the top pitching staff in the league.
Charleston’s bullpen was strong for the third straight night, as Ron Marinaccio and Carlos Espinal finished off the night on the mound with three innings between the duo of five hits and just one run allowed, an RBI double to left field from Nick Horvath.