CHARLESTON, S.C. – The only thing Charleston missed through the first two games of the series was timely, early offense, and the RiverDogs made it happen in the finale to back a strong Roansy Contreras in a 3-1 win over the Columbia Fireflies Wednesday night in front of 3,760 at Riley Park.
The RiverDogs (64-58, 27-25), playing as the Charleston Rainbows in the series finale, scored three runs in the first two innings one night removed from earning a walk-off win in the ninth inning. The early barrage was more than enough for Contreras (9-5, 3.62), who turned in his best start of the season to seal the series sweep. The righty whiffed four of the first six hitters he faced, and fired 4 2/3 perfect innings before surrendering a no-doubt solo shot to Shervyen Newton, cutting the Rainbows’ lead to 3-1.
Contreras was unfazed, setting down the next seven hitters he faced in order, with four more punchouts thrown in. The right-hander finished his night with seven strong frames complete, allowing just the solo home run in his outing. He tied his career-high in innings pitched as well as strikeouts, as he finished with 10 whiffs under his belt.
Southpaw Dalton Lehnen came on in the eighth to relieve Contreras, throwing frames of one-hit ball, fanning a pair to seal the win and earn his third save of the season with the RiverDogs.
Brandon Lockridge kicked off the action in the bottom of the first with a leadoff walk drawn against Columbia (47-71, 23-29) starter Christian James (3-9, 4.70). He swiped his 20th bag of the season during Oswald Peraza’s at-bat, and advanced to third on a groundout by Canaan Smith.
Designated hitter Josh Breaux came through in the clutch with two outs, lining a soft single back up the middle to plate his teammate for his first RBI since he drove in three against the Hickory Crawdads August 10.
The Rainbows tacked on a couple more in the bottom of the second, making a mistake from James come back to haunt their in-state rivals. Max Burt, recently returned from a 12-game stint with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, was hit by a 2-2 offering with one out. The infielder advanced to second on a groundout by Eduardo Navas, and Lockridge stepped to the plate with an opportunity to build upon Charleston’s early lead.
He did just that, lining the first pitch of the at-bat down the left field line. Burt scored easily from second, and Lockridge never stopped running, ending up at third base for his fourth triple of the season.
Oswald Peraza jumped on the very next pitch James threw, smacking a line drive off the right-hander on the mound. Lockridge came in to score the Rainbows’ third run on the play before Smith fanned to end the inning. Overall, James finished with just 3 1/3 innings complete and the three markers allowed on five hits and four walks.
With the stolen bag, Lockridge became the fifth player in Charleston franchise history (circa 1980) to accrue 30 doubles, 10 homers and 20 stolen bases in one season.
Charleston completed its season series against the Fireflies winning 15 of 21 games, outscoring Columbia 90-61, and swept the series this week allowing three total runs on nine hits in the three contests. Columbia entered Wednesday hitting a lowly .193 (124-for-641) against Holy City pitching, and that number dropped even further to .188 (126-for-669) following the two-hit masterpiece authored by Contreras and Lehnen Wednesday night. To top it off, the Dogs posted a 2.30 ERA over the course of the 21 games against Columbia this season.
Now back in the thick of the playoff hunt, the Dogs remain two games back of the first-place Asheville Tourists and Augusta GreenJackets, as both clubs prevailed in their respective Wednesday night contests.
The RiverDogs become the Charleston Rainbows for the series finale, throwing it back to the late 1980s with special powder blue uniforms and hats to complete the look on Rainbows Pride Night presented by MUSC Health. The jerseys were put up for auction during and after the game, and the proceeds from the sales will go to benefit Charleston Pride. It was also another Senior Wednesday at Riley Park, and those in attendance who were 65 years old and older took a stroll around the bases after the game and enjoyed free food before 7 p.m. The RiverDogs also honored the Charleston Hurricanes Women's Rugby Club as the inaugural recipient of the Rainbows Pride Award for their contributions to the inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community in the Lowcountry.