Not known for their power the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs hit homers in back-to-back innings Thursday and sank the Hickory Crawdads 4-3 in South Atlantic League play Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Despite the loss, Hickory (38-21) caught a break in its first-half Northern Division title chase when second place West Virginia blew a two-run lead in the ninth and fell to Savannah 4-3. The Crawdads lead the second place Power by 4 ½ games with ten to go. The magic number to clinch the first-half title is six.
For its part, Charleston (29-31) stayed in the race in the Southern Division. The win moved the RiverDogs into third place and put them four games behind both Savannah and Greenville.
The RiverDogs literally came out of the gate fast as speedy shortstop lined the second pitch of the game to right center for a triple. Dustin Fowler singled him in for the first run. One out later, Juan Graterol lined a double to the wall in left center to make it 2-0.
The Crawdads struck back in the first with a run. Josh Morgan walked, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on Jose Trevino’s double to the left field corner.
Hickory took the lead in the second against R-Dogs starter Rony Bautista. Rock Shoulders walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. Carlos Arroyo singled him to third and also moved to second on a wild pitch. Jose Cardona then followed with a sharp single off the glove of the diving third baseman Ryan Lindemuth to give Hickory a 3-2 lead.
Collin Wiles then gave up his first home run of the season in the fourth when Austin Aune took him deep to right – his third of the season.
The home run surrendered by Wiles was the first given up by a starting pitcher since May 11, a span of 28 games covering 147.2 innings.
As rain began in the fifth, Fowler golfed a curveball out of the park in right for his third of the season to put the R-Dogs in front 4-3.
Entering the game 13th out of 14 teams in the SAL in home runs, Charleston has hit five of its 19 homers against Hickory pitching. The two homers allowed by Wiles was only the third time in 2015 that a starter has given up two in a game.
After a 29-minute rain delay, the RiverDogs replaced Bautista with reliever Matt Marsh. He shut down the Crawdads on two hits over the last five innings to pick up the win (1-0). The lone threat against Marsh came when Hickory put two runners on with two outs in the seventh, but was unable to score.
Austin Pettibone threw three perfect innings of relief for Hickory, striking out two. Scott Williams worked around a walk and a hit batter in the ninth to keep the Crawdads within a run. But Marsh struck out two in the bottom of the ninth, the last against Isiah Kiner-Falefa, to end the game.
**Jose Trevino had a complete game at the plate and behind it. He turned a 94 mph heater into the leftfield corner and stole a base to set the Crawdads up for a potential second run in the first. He reached six times in 12 plate appearances in the series and has a five-game hitting streak.
But it was his efforts as a catcher that was impressive. With a runner on first in the second, Trevino snagged a low glove-side curveball and made a strong throw to second to cut down Aune trying to steal. In the ninth, Williams struck out Aune with a slider that trickled behind Trevino. He found the ball quickly and put a throw on the money to Kiner-Falefa at third to cut down the slow-footed Juan Graterol at third.
He also had a hand in keeping the demeanor of a couple of pitchers in check. When Wiles had walked the first batter in the second and started the next hitter with a fastball off the plate, Trevino trotted out to the mound, said a couple of words, and then issued a backside slap before returning to the plate. Wiles then ended the inning with two pop ups before Trevino rang up the caught stealing. In the ninth, when Williams got into trouble due to control issues, again it was Trevino to the mound to go face-to-face with the hurler. A few words said, a two-handed love tap to the shoulders, then back to the plate. A 2-0 count to Aune turned into an infield fly before the strike-‘em-out-throw-‘em out.
**Eduard Pinto had walked six times total in his first 39 games entering the series. He walked twice on Thursday and finished with six walks the past three games. He also singled in the third and reached base 7 of 12 times in the series
**Isaiah Kiner-Falefa with a couple of nice play at third. In the second, he made a quick run to the fence past the dugout, then made a leaning catch for the out. In the eighth, Kiner-Falefa showed quick hands to snatch a sharp grounder from Fowler. The force of the hit spun Kiner-Falefa briefly before he recovered to make the throw to third.
**Jairo Beras appears to be on track to make a run at the plate. He took a fastball up and out to right for a lined single. In the sixth, he rapped the first pitch he saw from Marsh into the gap in left center for a giraffe-like gaited, legged-out double. In the eighth, Beras ripped a hanging curve that went straight to Aune in right.
** Austin Pettibone showed a good biting slider that played a big part in his perfect three innings. He missed four bats with the pitch and used it to set up a called-strike three on a fastball to Devyn Bolasky.
**Collin Wiles did not have his usual control much of the night. Fastballs and changes both stayed up and were spanked often. His breaking stuff didn’t have its usual bite. Wiles left an 0-2 change up that Fowler used for his RBI single in the first. He ahead of Graterol 0-2 in the first, but missed the plate with a fastball and slider before leaving a fastball over the plate for the RBI double. He did miss bats with his slider in the fifth and made a good pitch to Fowler – a curveball that Fowler went down to get and golfed out to right.
**Luke Tendler was eaten up with breaking stuff much of the night. After K-ing twice vs. Bautista – both on sliders down and in, the curveball of Marsh got him in the sixth. Of the ten breaking pitches he saw, Tendler whiffed on seven of them. The one fastball he struck, was late and turned into a routine 6-3.
**Matt Marsh held the Crawdads pretty well in check and had several hitters flailing at his curve (6 missed bats and a called 3rd strike). He did leave some pitches up that Hickory hitters were unable to get to fall. In the eighth, an 0-2 hanger to Beras was lined to RF for an out. The next batter Rock Shoulders saw a fat 0-2 fastball that was lined near the track in center.
**Fowler finished the series 7-for-12 with 3 RBI and 3 runs.
**Aune had a big hand in the outcome in right. He made a sliding catch of a slicing liner by Kiner-Falefa in the first, which minimized the damage for Charleston early. Two innings later, his strong throw to the plate was in time to catch Trevino trying to score from second on a single by Beras.