Two squeeze plays by the Asheville Tourists made the difference in Friday night’s game, as the Charleston RiverDogs fell to Asheville, 6-4, in front of 4,675 fans at Joe Riley Park.
The game was tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh. Shane Hoelscher and Josh Fuentes got the inning started for the Tourists (31-37) with back-to-back singles. A double steal advanced them to second and third with no outs.
After Luis Jean grounded out to short with the infield playing in, the runners were on the move again as Marcos Derkes laid a textbook bunt down the third base line for an RBI single. Dom Nunez followed with an RBI sacrifice bunt as Fuentes bolted for home on the pitch and scored to give Asheville a 3-1 lead.
The RiverDogs (33-35) answered quickly in the bottom half of the frame. Collin Slaybaugh drew a two-out walk and Alexander Palma ripped an RBI triple to left. But Asheville added insurance to its 3-2 lead with three runs in the top of the eighth. Fuentes ripped a two-out, two-run double to left and scored on Jean’s single to center.
In the bottom of the eighth, Charleston inched closer once again. Dustin Fowler and Angel Aguilar hit consecutive one-out singles, and then Chris Breen drove a ground-rule double into the right-field corner to bring home Fowler. Aguilar scored when the next batter, Austin Aune, hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
Slaybaugh provided the first spark of offense for the RiverDogs with an RBI double in the second inning. Asheville tied the game in the sixth inning on a balk by Charleston’s starting pitcher Conner Kendrick.
Asheville starter Carlos Polanco (3-8) got the win with 6 2/3 innings of two-hit baseball. Kendrick only gave up two hits as well but got a no decision. Andre Del Bosque (3-2) took the loss for Charleston. Josh Michalec set down the RiverDogs in order in the bottom of the ninth to earn his 12th save of the season, the second-most in the South Atlantic League.
With the loss, Charleston falls out of contention in the first-half Southern Division race. Two more RiverDogs games against Asheville remain before the South Atlantic League All-Star Break begins Monday.
A large crowd gathered at The Joe and stood together in a moment of silence before the National Anthem in memory of those affected by Wednesday night’s tragedy. Fans also joined together in singing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. Manager Luis Dorante, his staff, the entire team and RiverDogs front office staff took to the field after the game with a signed “Charleston Strong” banner that will be placed at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s memorial. Pitcher Joey Maher briefly addressed the crowd with a message of remembrance and gratitude during the postgame ceremony. As a display of solidarity with the grieving Charleston community, the Charleston RiverDogs canceled Friday’s postgame fireworks show. Fans with tickets for Friday’s game will be able to use their ticket for another RiverDogs game of their choice, excluding July 4.
The RiverDogs continue their three-game series with the Asheville Tourists at 6:05 p.m. Charleston will send RHP Matt Wotherspoon (1-0, 5.87 ERA) to the mound to face LHP Sam Howard (2-7, 4.47 ERA) for the Tourists.