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A Bill Murray pep talk, 6,224 fans but RiverDogs can't seal Low-A East title

Charleston has waited 99 years for another minor league baseball championship.

Lowcountry fans will have to wait one more night.

Or two.

The Down East Wood Ducks with a 7-5 victory before a Sept. 24 sellout crowd of 6,224 at Riley Park cut the Charleston RiverDogs’ lead to 2-1 in a best-of-five Low-A East Championship Series.

The Wood Ducks jumped on starter Sandy Gaston for a three-run first inning with run-scoring doubles from Cody Freeman and Thomas Saggese. Down East center fielder Jayce Easley, the son of former major leaguer Damion Easley, scored twice.

Right-hander Nick Krauth (6-9) gave up two runs on six hits over seven innings to get the victory.

The RiverDogs rallied with three runs in the ninth, two on a homer by designated hitter Alexander Ovalles, to cut the Down East lead to 7-5. All before right-hander Eudrys Manon came on to strike out three batters in a row.

Charleston won the first two games of the series in Kinston, N.C. The teams meet Sept. 25 at 6:05 p.m. at Riley Park for Game 4.

Game 5, if necessary, is set for Sept. 26 at 5:05 p.m. at Riley Park.

It all started with so much Friday fun for the RiverDogs: a pep talk sent from co-owner Bill Murray was played for players and fans on the Riley Park video board.

“Tonight,” Murray said from a bull ring in Spain, “is a night of destiny.”

The crowd easily topped the RiverDogs’ season attendance average of 3,660, which was second-best in the Low-A East behind Augusta’s 3,712.

The first 1,500 fans got “Let’s Go Dogs” T-shirts.

The 1908 Charleston Sea Gulls and 1922 Charleston Pals are the only Charleston teams to win minor league baseball titles.

The 2021 RiverDogs, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate that went 82-38, set a Charleston record with a .683 winning percentage.

But the Wood Ducks were 72-46 and first in the league with 38 road victories.

Matt Dyer’s two-run home run to left in the fourth inning gave Charleston a lift, cutting the Down East lead to 6-2.

Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

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