Rock Shoulders hit a solo homer and Jose Trevino added a three-run bomb in support of Luis Ortiz and two relievers as the Hickory Crawdads defeated the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs 5-2 in the opening game of a three-game series Tuesday night.
The Crawdads (37-20) increased their lead in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League to 3 ½ games over second place West Virginia, which lost a 9-1 beatdown to Savannah. The RiverDogs (28-30) dropped into fourth place in the Southern Division and now trail first place teams Greenville and Savannah by three games in the Southern Division chase. The 70-game, first-half season ends on June 21.
After Crawdads starter Luis Ortiz got out of a first-inning jam with a double play, Hickory got on the board in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly by Eduard Pinto.
It turned out to be all that Ortiz needed as he retired 15 of the last 17 hitters he faced on the night. Ortiz (3-1) allowed four hits and struck out four over six shutout innings.
Hickory loaded the bases with one out against RiverDogs starter Luis Cedeno (3-6) in the third. However on back-to-back, first pitches, Cedeno got Trevino to hit into an infield fly and Luke Tendler to ground out to short.
Shoulders turned on a Cedeno fastball and sent it well out of the park to right field in the fourth. It was Shoulders first homer of the season.
In the fifth, Josh Morgan singled and Pinto walked ahead of Trevino’s seventh homer of the season – his first since April 26.
Charleston scored its only runs in the seventh when Chris Breen sent a Chris Dula curveball over the fence in left. The homer was the fourth of the season for Breen, which leads the team. The blast was the first allowed by the Crawdads in 11 games, spanning 89.1 innings. (Delmarva’s Logan Uxa on 5/27 vs. Kelvin Vasquez.) The RiverDogs have hit 17 home runs this season- three of those against Hickory pitching.
Yohander Mendez closed out the game for this third save with two scoreless innings, during which he allowed just one walk.
**Ortiz. Here’s his night here. He also continues a streak of 27 games (139 innings) in which a starter has not allowed a home run.
**Eduard Pinto had a perfect night at the plate, even though he did not officially have an at-bat. To go with his sacrifice fly, Pinto walked three straight times. He had walked only three times entering the game. In the eight games he has batted third this season, Pinto has a slash line of .333/.406/.519 with a double, two triples and four walks.
** Yohander Mendez took a little time to find the feel to his curveball in the eighth, but then ended that inning with back-to-back Ks – four missed bats on curves. He ended the game by getting Breen looking on a curve.
**Rock Shoulders finally found a bit of luck. After crushing a pitch to center in the second, he hit the third-straight 93 mph pitch thrown to him in the fourth for the no-doubter.
**After missing a curve in the third (see below) Jose Trevino didn’t miss the hanger in the fifth for what turned out to be the difference.
**Josh Morgan made a nice play at short on a sinking, low liner by Graterol to the cut of the grass.
** Carlos Arroyo hit into some bad luck during an 0-for-4 night. With Jairo Beras on the move in the second, Arroyo hit a sharp liner up the middle that found 2B Angel Aguilar’s glove as he moved to cover second. Beras was doubled up easily. In the sixth, his liner into the gap in right-center field was run down by CF Dustin Fowler.
**Chris Dula gave up a cheapie single to Juan Granatol (a dribbler to third) to start the sixth, then had problems finding the strike zone with his sinker. He then left a curveball up to Breen, who spanked it for a HR. To his credit, Dula settled down and ended the inning by getting Austin Aune to ground a hard sinker to short.
**Sporting the worst offensive numbers in the SAL, Charleston appeared to be on the ropes in the third and had played the infield in with a runner at third and one out, trailing 1-0. After Cedeno walked Pinto on five pitches to load the bases, Cedeno got Trevino to chase a first-pitch curve that was popped up for an infield fly. Luke Tendler then sent a first-pitch sinker to short to end the inning.
** Jairo Beras seemed to have trouble seeing the ball in right. He froze on Fowler’s double to right in the first before chasing down the ball that one-hopped the wall. On Fowler’s fly out in the sixth, Beras came in briefly before retreating backwards to make the catch.