SAVANNAH - In the longest Charleston RiverDogs game of the season, Michael O'Neill recorded a career-high four hits and Gosuke Katoh slugged a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning, but the Savannah Sand Gnats scored three runs in the ninth to walk off in a 9-8 win on Tuesday night at Grayson Stadium in South Atlantic League action.
The RiverDogs are 3-10 in the second half and 36-47 overall. The Sand Gnats are now 9-4 and 53-26, respectively. The contest, which lasted three hours and 54 minutes, is Charleston's fifth consecutive loss.
Savannah picked up an early lead by scoring in each of the first three innings. Champ Stuart tripled and scored during a force out in the first for a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, Victor Cruzado connected on his fifth home run of the season, a two-run blast, to increase Savannah's lead to three. After O'Neill scored on a sacrifice fly for a RiverDogs run in the top of the third, a Savannah sacrifice fly brought in Stuart to give the Sand Gnats a 4-1 advantage.
With a three-run deficit, Charleston managed to tie the game at 4-4 during the fourth inning. Kale Sumner and Eduardo de Oleo recorded back-to-back singles to open the frame. Both runners scored on a one-out double by Reymond Nunez. Charleston loaded the bases with a single and a walk before a force out allowed Nunez to come in for the game-tying run.
In the top of the fifth, the RiverDogs bounced ahead 5-4. Miguel Andujar led off with a single and advanced to third base after a groundout from Sumner. Following another groundout, Andujar scored the go-ahead run when Katoh reached on a fielding error.
The Sand Gnats were held scoreless in the bottom of the fifth before retaking the lead in the sixth. A Dominic Smith single and a double by Oberste set Savannah up with runners in scoring position. Cole Frenzel's groundout brought in Smith and evened the score at 5-5. Jorge Rivero followed with a double to score Oberste and push the Sand Gnats to a 6-5 lead.
Katoh's go-ahead home run put Charleston up 8-6 in the ninth. Andujar walked and Sumner reached during a sacrifice bunt when Savannah had an unsuccessful force attempt on Andujar at second base. After a foul out, Katoh tagged Savannah reliever Akeel Morris with a three-run blast, his third home run of the season, to give the RiverDogs the lead. Morris had only allowed one run all season prior to this appearance.
In the bottom of the ninth, three RiverDogs errors allowed the Sand Gnats to score three runs in a walk-off win. Patrick Biondi drew a one-out walk ahead of Stuart. A ground ball and a throwing error on a force attempt at second base allowed Biondi to score before Stuart tied the game by scoring on another throwing error. A single and a fielding error put two runners aboard, and after a fly out, back-to-back walks forced in pinch-runner Jonathan Johnson for the winning run.
Morris and RiverDogs reliever Philip Walby were each tagged with blown saves in the ninth inning. Morris still claimed the victory to improve to 4-0 while Walby suffered the loss to drop to 2-3.
Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Wednesday as Charleston RHP Brady Lail (7-4, 3.75 ERA) squares off against Savannah RHP John Gant (7-4, 2.57 ERA).