There was the usual fun and pre-game antics that one has come to expect from the Charleston RiverDogs’ opening game Thursday night at Riley Park.
The RiverDogs players made an unconventional entrance — via taxi cabs – onto the field for pre-game introductions.
Then there was Mr. Fun himself, Bill Murray, and Charleston mayor Joe Riley throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. After Riley tossed a strike, Murray and team mascot Charlie the RiverDog hoisted the mayor into their arms and carried him off the field much to the delight of the standing-room-only crowd of 7,796 at Riley Park. It was the biggest opening night crowd since 2009, when the RiverDogs drew 8,366.
Later Titus the Bat Dog shagged a few RiverDogs’ bats in the second inning in conjunction with K-9s for Veterans.
The highlight of the night might have come in the top of the ninth inning when a wild red fox trotted onto the field, interrupting the game for a few minutes. The fox scampered into the outfield as Charleston outfielder Dustin Fowler chased after the animal. The uninvited guest made a quick exit near the right-field fence as the crowd roared their approval.
“I’ve seen a cat and a dog get onto the field on other fields, but never a fox. That’s a first,” said Charleston RiverDogs manager Luis Dorante. “I guess we’ll have to work with our players’ fox-catching skills later in the week.”
All in all, another successful opening night for the Charleston RiverDogs.
That is as long as one doesn’t take into account the final score. Lexington defeated the RiverDogs, 3-2, behind a strong outing from starter Pedro Fernandez.
“Opening night is always a lot of fun no matter what the score is at the end of the game,” Dorante said. “It was an unbelievable atmosphere, the crowd was great and for a lot of these guys it’s the first time under the lights and they are going to make some mistakes. It’s a long season and the mistakes we made tonight are correctable.”
Fernandez, a 20-year-old free agent from the Dominican Republic, went just 4.1 innings and didn’t get a decision. He gave up just one hit and struck out eight batters. Tory Deshazier (1-0) picked up the win for Lexington, going 3.2 innings, and Zachery Lovvorn recorded the save. The three Lexington pitchers combined to strike out 15 Charleston batters.
RiverDogs starter Jordan Foley, a fifth-round pick out of Central Michigan, was just as dominant through four innings. Foley (0-1) gave up just three hits during the first four innings, but then surrendered all three runs in the fifth.
“I thought he overpowered them with his fastball for the first four innings,” Dorante said. “He missed a couple of spots in that last inning, but for his first start I think he pitched pretty well.
The RiverDogs answered with two runs in the seventh and had runners in scoring position in the ninth inning. Designated hitter Abiatal Aveliino and left fielder Chris Breen each had two hits on the night.
“We showed a lot of character in the later innings by not giving up,” Dorante said. “We need to make some little adjustments, but I’m really pleased with our effort.”