RiverDogs hold off Woodpeckers in first game of series

RiverDogs Woodpeckers
RiverDogs Woodpeckers
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 10:33 PM EDT
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Fayetteville, NC - Oneill Manzueta tracked down Tommy Sacco’s fly ball near the warning track in right field to leave the bases loaded and preserve a 5-3 win for the Charleston RiverDogs over the Fayetteville Woodpeckers at Segra Stadium on Tuesday. The RiverDogs entered the ninth inning with a three-run lead only to watch the Woodpeckers collect four singles in the frame. The win, coupled with a Columbia loss, allowed the RiverDogs to move 4.5 games ahead of their closest pursuer in the South Division.

The game started off on a great note for the RiverDogs (31-18, 77-38) in their first ever trip to Fayetteville. Carson Williams doubled into the left field corner and scored moments later on Junior Caminero’s RBI single to left for a 1-0 lead. Willy Vasquez followed with a base hit and Blake Robertson walked to load the bases. Brock Jones struck out, but Kenny Piper muscled a two-RBI single into center to widen the gap to 3-0.

Nick Bitsko, the Rays first round pick in 2020, made his debut with the team in the bottom of the first. Two walks with a double sandwiched in between loaded the bases for the Woodpeckers (16-33, 47-67) with no outs. Bitsko came back to strike out Collin Price and appeared to induce an inning-ending groundball, but Williams bobbled the transfer at short and the RiverDogs settled for one out on the play with a run scoring. Another walk loaded the bases once more, but Leosdany Molina hit a line drive right at second baseman Ryan Spikes to end the inning. Bitsko departed after the frame having thrown 35 pitches.

Charleston added to their lead with a Jones RBI double in the third and a run-scoring groundout by Daiwer Castellanos in the sixth. Fayetteville took one run off the deficit when Tyler Whitaker blasted his tenth home run of the year in the bottom of the sixth. That run was the only one allowed by Alex Ayala Jr., who came out of the bullpen and tossed 6.0 innings with a career-high eight strikeouts.

The RiverDogs brought a 5-2 lead into the final frame as Roel Garcia looked to finish the game. He recorded two outs, but also surrendered three singles to load the bases before being removed in favor of Jack Snyder. The new pitcher allowed an RBI single to Garrett McGowan before getting Sacco to fly out for the final out. Snyder earned his eighth save in the process. Garcia was charged with one run in 1.2 innings.

Vasquez was responsible for two of the RiverDogs six hits as a team, stretching his hitting streak to a season-high nine games in the process. Piper was not retired in the contest, finishing 1-1 with two RBI, two walks and a hit by pitch. Fayetteville received two hits from Whitake and Jacob Melton.

The second game of the series is scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday. RHP Ben Peoples (5-4, 3.19) will be on the mound for Charleston. Fayetteville will hand the ball to RHP Carlos Calderon (3-6, 4.91).