RiverDogs strike late to move within game of title

Published: Sep. 17, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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Kinston, NC - The Charleston RiverDogs scored the final four runs after facing an early deficit on Sunday afternoon to take Game 1 of the Carolina League Championship Series by a 4-2 margin over the Down East Wood Ducks at Grainger Stadium. The RiverDogs return to Charleston needing one more victory to claim the league title for a third year in a row.

The Wood Ducks jumped out to a quick start with the help of a long ball in the opening frame. Jonny Cuevas walked leadoff hitter Quincy Scott to open his day on the mound and JoJo Blackmon followed with a two-run blast to center field. Miguel Villaroel added a single as three straight reached to open the day for Down East. Cuevas rebounded to retire the next three batters without further damage.

The RiverDogs were held without a hit until the fifth inning, when Jhon Diaz singled up the middle. Charleston loaded the bases with one out in that inning, but could not push a run in. In the sixth, Cooper Kinney worked a leadoff walk before Ryan Spikes struck out swinging. Colton Ledbetter came to the plate with one out and worked the count to 3-2, eventually hammering a fastball over the right field to tie the game.

In the seventh inning, the RiverDogs loaded the bases with a single by Cristopher Barete and bases on balls from Raudelis Martinez and Xavier Isaac. The Wood Ducks went to the bullpen before Kinney stepped into the box and, as the new pitcher ran toward the mound, the tarp was called onto the field. After a 37-minute delay, play was resumed with Paul Bonzagni on the mound. With a strikeout sandwiched between, the right-hander walked both Kinney and Ledbetter to force in runs and give Charleston a 4-2 advantage.

Drew Sommers retired the side in order in the seventh but worked himself into a jam in the eighth. He hit JoJo Blackmon with the first pitch of the inning and followed that by walking Miguel Villaroel on four pitches. Konner Piotto put down a bunt to move the tying run into scoring position with just one out. Gerlin Rosario entered from the bullpen and quickly struck out Ian Moller before escaping trouble by inducing a soft groundball from Gleider Figuereo. Rosario followed that with a perfect ninth inning to earn the save.

Cuevas did not allow a run after the home run in the first inning, tossing 5.0 strong frames. He struck out eight and scattered five hits. Cade Halemanu worked a scoreless sixth inning, stranding a pair before the rain delay. Sommers worked 1.1 innings of hitless ball.

Ledbetter led the way with a 1-4 day at the plate that included the big home run and three runs batted in. Martinez also reached base three times as Charleston finished with five hits. Down East collected six hits, two of them from Blackmon.

The teams will travel south to Charleston for Game 2 of the series on Tuesday night at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park. RHP Trevor Martin (0-0, 2.08) is scheduled to make his second start of the postseason for the RiverDogs. Down East will turn to RHP Brock Porter (0-0, 3.60) who will also be pitching for the second time in the playoffs. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

The Segra Club at Riley Park is open for events year-round. Visit segraclub.com for more information. The RiverDogs Food Truck is available for your next event! Contact the RiverDogs front office at 843-577-3647 (DOGS) for more information.