LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Despite two runs scored and driven in by Michael O'Neill, including a solo home run, the Charleston RiverDogs ended up on the wrong side of a 7-5 decision against the Lakewood BlueClaws on Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Park in South Atlantic League action.
The RiverDogs are now 9-9, while the BlueClaws improved to 5-12, snapping a four-game losing streak. This three-game series, the only scheduled meeting between these teams, is tied at 1-1.
Lakewood picked up a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning. Back-to-back singles opened the frame, putting J. P. Crawford on third base. Crawford scored following a wild pitch by Giovanny Gallegos and moved the BlueClaws in front. Carlos Tocci went to second on the play and scored after a RiverDogs error on a ground ball to give Lakewood an early two-run edge.
Charleston answered immediately by cutting the BlueClaws' lead in half during the second inning. O'Neill led off with a single and scored from first when Jose Rosario doubled to left field, bringing the RiverDogs within 2-1.
The BlueClaws scored in the second and third innings to build their advantage. Wilmer Oberto hit a solo home run to right field, his first round-tripper of the season, and put Lakewood ahead 3-1 in the second. Tocci's sacrifice fly in the third brought in Crawford for a 4-1 lead.
O'Neill scored again in the fourth to keep the RiverDogs close at 4-2. O'Neill drove a home run off Tyler Viza and trimmed Lakewood's lead to two. His four home runs lead Charleston and ranks second in the league, trailing Asheville's Ryan McMahon with eight.
In the fifth inning, the RiverDogs came close to tying the contest. Aaron Judge had a full count with two outs and runners on first and second. The runners left on the pitch and Judge doubled to center field. Abiatal Avelino scored, but Tyler Wade was cut down at the plate by a relay from Tocci to Crawford to Gabriel Lino. That kept the BlueClaws ahead by a 4-3 margin.
Another Lakewood home run provided some breathing room in the sixth. This time, Dylan Cozens connected on his second home run this season to give the BlueClaws a 5-3 advantage.
New Jersey native Mike Ford sparked a game-tying rally during the top of the eighth. Ford singled against reliever Julio Reyes, scoring Tyler Wade in the process. O'Neill tied the game at 5-5 when he singled off Cody Forsythe to score Judge and even the contest.
That tie would be short-lived as the BlueClaws jumped ahead 7-5 in its half of the eighth. Facing RiverDogs reliever Cesar Vargas, Cozens brought in Tocci with a triple to break the tie before scoring himself after Willians Astudillo's single.
Although Forsythe allowed the RiverDogs to tie the game, he would be the winning pitcher and move to 1-0 after a scoreless ninth inning. Vargas dropped to 0-1 after suffering the loss.
Morning baseball is set for the series finale as the RiverDogs and BlueClaws will play at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday. Charleston RHP Brady Lail (1-1, 6.14 ERA) will be opposed by Lakewood RHP Alejandro Arteaga (1-2, 6.23 ERA).
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