RiverDogs drop finale of first half

Jorge Mateo stole four bases and scored two runs for the Charleston RiverDogs, but fell 3-2 in the series finale as the Asheville Tourists came back to score two runs in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon at Riley Park in the final game of the season’s first half.

For the second game in a row, the RiverDogs (34-36) scored their first run on a double-steal in the first inning. Mateo drew a leadoff walk, Dustin Fowler followed with a base hit and Mateo advanced to third. Later in the inning, Fowler took off from first and stole second while Mateo flew home and avoided the tag from the catcher, which put the 2,641 fans on hand at The Joe into a frenzy.

Asheville (32-38) tied the game in the top of the fourth. Shane Hoelscher got the inning started with a single, stole second and third, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Drew Weeks, who leads the Tourists with 37 RBIs.

Charleston answered in the bottom of the fifth. Mateo drew a walk to begin the frame, stole second, then advanced to third on a wild throw by catcher Robbie Perkins. Angel Aguilar ripped an RBI single up the middle to plate Mateo and put the RiverDogs in the lead once again.

With just three outs separating the RiverDogs from finishing the first half of the season at .500, Asheville rallied back to take the lead. Josh Fuentes singled and Weeks walked to set the table. Wes Rogers laid down a bunt single and the first baseman Bo Thompson’s throw sailed past first base. Fuentes and Weeks both scored as the ball rolled all the way to the RiverDogs bullpen.

Rony Bautista set a new season high and tied his career high with eight strikeouts in the start for the RiverDogs. He only allowed one run in five innings, but got a no-decision. Marsh (1-1) pitched three scoreless innings of relief, but he gave up two unearned runs in the ninth and took the loss.

Jerad McCrummen (2-0) threw a scoreless eighth inning for Asheville and picked up the win. Josh Michalec shut the door and set down the RiverDogs in order in the ninth to earn his 13th save of the season. Michalec is tied with Hickory’s John Fasola for the most saves in the South Atlantic League.

After the three-day All-Star break, the RiverDogs will hit the road for nine games before returning home on July 4 to host the Rome Braves.

The RiverDogs wrapped up Larry Doby Heritage Weekend celebrating Negro League Baseball. Staff members wore jerseys of the Newark Eagles and the Homestead Grays around the ballpark. Fans stood together in a moment of silence before the National Anthem in memory of those affected by Wednesday’s tragedy. Fans also joined together in singing God Bless American during the seventh-inning stretch. After the game, fans enjoyed an autograph session with the entire team on the field. Many fathers and their kids joined in a pregame catch on the field.

The RiverDogs have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off with the South Atlantic League All-Star Game taking place Tuesday night in Asheville. The second half of the season begins with a nine-game road trip to Greenville and Asheville beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Drive. The RiverDogs will return home on July 4 to open up a nine-game homestand.