HICKORY, N.C. – After seeing an early 6-0 lead slip away, the RiverDogs leaned on their All-Star left fielder Canaan Smith to come through in the clutch. With two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the eighth inning, Charleston’s breakout MVP candidate thumped his ninth home run of the season to put the RiverDogs back in front in an eventual 9-8 victory over the Crawdads on Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Despite a recent 1-for-16 slump, Smith still entered play among the top-3 in the league in a litany of offensive categories and continued his tremendous season with a three-hit night that raised his batting .319 and an OPS at .898. The Rockwall, Texas native added an infield hit to contribute to Charleston’s six-run second inning before going deep to give the RiverDogs (60-57, 23-24) an 8-7 lead back in the eighth. It was the former fourth-rounder’s second go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later this season.
Some sloppy play from the Crawdads (68-44, 27-19) provided the Holy City an insurance marker that proved the difference as Hickory got to lefty Tim Hardy (W, 2-0) one final time in the ninth. In the top of frame, first baseman Eric Wagaman singled and advanced on a misplay by the left fielder. After moving up on a wild pitch from Kelvin Gonzalez (L, 5-2), he later scored on a balk to make it 9-7 Dogs.
The win marked Charleston’s ninth victory in their last 11 games, moving them within 3.5 games of first-place Augusta in the second-half standings.
Charleston roared out of the gates, smashing seven hits to chase Crawdads starter Ronny Henriquez in the second. Following eight hits over their first two innings, the offensive well dried up as Charleston managed just one hit between the third through seventh innings against Hickory’s bullpen. Center fielder Brandon Lockridge reached on an infield hit in the eighth to set up Smith’s go-ahead fly to right-center.
Right-hander Yoendrys Gomez made his third start of the year with Charleston and managed to find his groove outside of one tough inning. The 19-year-old ran into trouble in the fourth, allowing back-to-back doubles to open the frame before Tyreque Reed hammered a 1-2 fastball down the left field line for his 12 home run with Hickory on the year, all coming since a June 21 demotion from the Carolina League. Gomez finished five innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out five in a no-decision.
After tallying two more in the sixth, the ‘Dads completed the comeback from 6-0 down when third baseman Josh Jung, the eighth overall pick in this past June’s draft out of Texas Tech, touched off for his first pro homer to lead off the seventh against Hardy. After two more hits and a walk, catcher Matt Whatley put Hickory in front with a sacrifice fly to left.