HICKORY, N.C. – Right fielder Josh Stower’s tremendous defensive night aided Roansy Contreras’ six shutout innings on the evening as the RiverDogs leaned on pitching and defense to come out on top in a 3-1 win over the Hickory Crawdads in Thursday night’s road trip opener at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Stowers carried the RiverDogs (59-57, 22-24) through the early portion of the contest, making two stunning grabs to keep the Crawdads (68-43, 27-18) off the board in the bottom of the first. The Louisville product first laid out in right-center to rob Rangers first rounder Josh Jung of extra bases with a runner on first before leaping at the wall to pull a Tyreque Reed homer back into the ballpark on the very next pitch to retire the side. Stowers’ incredible individual run carried over into the top of the second when he laced the first pitch he saw into left field for a double. After an astute advance to third base on a grounder from catcher Mickey Gasper, Stowers took off on contact and scored on Eric Wagaman’s slow chop back to the mound to put the RiverDogs out to an early 1-0 lead.
The early run looked like it would be enough as Hickory didn’t manage to score their first run until the final frame. Contreras (W, 8-5) took advantage of several stellar defensive plays behind him but threw the ball well, scattering four hits over six scoreless frames while striking out three. Over his last seven starts, the 19-year-old righty has allowed just nine earned runs over 40 innings (2.03), lowering his overall ERA under 4.00 for the first time since May 6.
Stowers continued to come up in the clutch throughout the night, including laying out to take one away from catcher Matt Whately in the third with a runner on and leaping into the extended netting into the right field foul grounds to retire Reed again in the fifth. The second rounder also added his 29th and 30th stolen bases of the year in the win, bringing his career total to 50 in his first 142 professional games.
Wagaman’s fourth home run of the season, a two-run blast off Crawdads starter Grant Wolfram (L, 4-3), was more than enough cushion. The Charleston offense needed just three hits to tally their eighth win in their last 10, tying their hottest ten-game stretch of the season last accomplished from April 25 to May 5. It marked first time this year that the RiverDogs lineup tallied three hits or fewer in a win.