Charleston RiverDogs Steal Win from Fireflies in 5-4 Walk-Off Victory
The Columbia Fireflies were playing in their first game in franchise history, and everything looked like they were going to make it their first victory in franchise history as well. However, an improbable four-run ninth inning gave the Charleston RiverDogs a 5-4 walk-off win to open the season.
It was a great pitchers battle through the first three innings. Domingo Acevedo started for the RiverDogs, and he looked sharp early, allowing only two second innings singles, while striking out five through three.
Chase Ingram looked even more overpowering. He gave up a single and a walk in the first inning, putting two on with one out, but then struck out Christ Gittens before getting Jhalan Jackson to ground out to end the inning. Ingram then retired Charleston in order over the next two innings, striking out four of the next six batters he faced.
In the top of fourth, Columbia grabbed their first runs in franchise history. Vinny Siena lined a single into left field to start the inning, and Dash Winningham followed with a ground ball into right field to put runners at the corners with no one out. With David Thompson at the plate, the Charleston pitcher uncorked a wild pitch scoring Siena and moving Winningham to second. It looked like that was all the damage that Acevedo would allow, as he was able to retire the next two hitters, but a clutch lined single to center by Tyler Moore scored Winningham and moved the score to 2-0. Moore moved to second when Vicente Lupo was hit by an inside fastball, and Milton Ramos followed with a hard single into right that scored Moore to extend the lead to three.
That would be it for Acevedo. Travis Hissong took over and got Ivan Wilson to fly out, but not before three runs had scored and eight men had come to the plate.
Ingram made sure that the lead remained. He gave up a two out double in the fourth, but struck out Chris Gittens and Kyle Holder in the frame to reach seven through four innings. That would be the Columbia starters last inning as well. The right-hander allowed just two hits and a walk in just his 13th professional appearance.
Craig Missigman took over for the visitors in the bottom of the fifth and the RiverDogs jumped on him early. Kendall Coleman drew a walk to start the inning, but Missigman settled down to strike out Angel Aguilar and Eduardo Navas. The Fireflies reliever could not seal the deal, however, walking Jeff Hendrix before hitting Hoy Jun Park. That loaded the bases, and when Trey Amburgey walked, Coleman scored and the deficit was cut to two. The inning had the makings of a huge comeback, but Missigman settled down and got Gittens to fly out to end the inning. That left the score 3-1.
Columbia responded right away in their next at-bats. The top of the sixth began by Hissong walking Thompson. J.C. Rodriguez then grounded to second in what looked like a sure double-play, but Rodriguez ran hard to beat the relay to first and keep a runner on with one out. A wild pitch moved the runner to second and Moore was walked to put two on with one out. Two batters later Ramos lined a single into right field that scored Rodriguez and the lead was back to three.
The scored remained 4-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Fireflies sent in closer Alex Palsha to close out the game, but Charleston was not going down without a fight. The reliever was able to retire the first batter of the inning on a hard hit liner that Lupo made a nice catch on. Coleman then worked himself to first with a walk before Aguilar walked to put two on with just one out. That brought Navas to the plate, who ripped a ground ball into right field sending Coleman home to score as Aguilar narrowly beat the throw to third.
That brought it to the top of the order and Jeff Hendrix, but he chased a ball low for a strikeout and the second out of the inning. It was all up to Park, looking to be the hero on his 2oth birthday. Park worked the count full before taking a pitch outside to load the bases. Amburgey was the next batter and he had already walked twice in the game, setting up a perfect situation as the Fireflies closer was struggling to find the plate. The RiverDogs leftfielder took three quick balls before taking a called strike. He then walked to send Aguilar across the plate and it was 4-3 with the bases still loaded.
That would be all for Palsha as Columbia turned to Johnny Magliozzi to try to end the threat. Gittens was the first batter he would face, and he had been having a tough day, going 0-3 to that point, but looking to erase all that with a chance to at least keep the inning alive. Before he had the chance to be the hero, Navas stole home, and a throwing error by Magliozzi allowed Park to score with the winning run in the completely unbelievable ending.
James Reeves (1-0) earned the victory for the Charleston RiverDogs with three outstanding innings of relief, allowing just a single and a walk while striking out two. Palsha (0-1) took the loss while Magliozzi was credited with the blown save.
The big heroes at the plate for Charleston were Amburgey and Coleman. Coleman walked twice and scored twice. Amburgey walked three times and drove in two. The RiverDogs were only able to manage four hits but drew nine walks.
Siena was 2-4 with a run and an RBI for Columbia. Ramos has two hits as well and drove in two.
The same two teams will go at it tomorrow night at the Joe in Charleston. Game time is 7:05 ET. P.J. Conlon (0-0) will go for Columbia, while Charleston has not named their starter yet.
By Robert Pannier