Jhalan Jackson Remains Hot, Leads RiverDogs to 5-4 Comeback Win
It has become a predictable feeling in Charleston. In taking three of their first four games from the Columbia Fireflies, the RiverDogs struggled against their opponent’s starters, only to battle back and win late against the bullpen. That did not need to be the case through the first two games of their series against the Asheville Tourists, but Wednesday the team needed a big late rally again, scoring five in the seventh to win 5-4.
Parker French started for Asheville, and he was absolutely dominant for six innings. The right-hander retired the side in the first, but yielded two singles in the second. He showed how good his stuff is, by inducing three ground balls to get out of the inning.
In the third he hit two batters, and it looked like the RiverDogs may get a run across the plate. With runners on first and second and two outs, Connor Spencer reached on an error by the Asheville first baseman. Hoy Jun Park, who was on second, attempted to come all the way around to score, but Brian Mundell recovered from the error to nail Park on a relay to keep Charleston off the board.
In the fourth, French struck out the first two batters before yielding a single to Kendall Coleman. Coleman attempted to stretch his hit into a double but was thrown out by Sam Hilliard. The righty allowed lone walks in the fifth and sixth innings, but no runs would score.
French would leave after six. He pitched a real gem, allowing 5-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 3. He amazingly induced 11 ground ball outs.
While French was shutting down the RiverDogs hitters, his own offense was staking him to a 3-0 lead. Anyelo Gomez started for Charleston and looked good through the first two frames. Two men reached in the first, on an error and a walk, with no one out, but he then retired the Tourists in order, running a stretch of six straight outs through the first two innings.
In the top of the third, Carlos Herrera led off by drawing a walk, and moved to second on a single by Mylz Jones. Hilliard then laid down a perfect bunt to move both runners into scoring position. That brought Mundell to the plate. Who grounded out to short, scoring Herrera and moving Jones to third. A base hit by Hamlet Marte brought home Jones and it was 2-0 Asheville.
In the top of the fourth the Tourists would extend their lead. Jonathan Piron doubled to being the inning, and Terry McClure followed with a double that easily scored Piron. It was 3-0 and, by the way that French was pitching, this game looked over. However, the bullpen could not hold it.
Lefty Daniel Koger came in to pitch in the bottom of the seventh and was able to strike out the first batter he faced, but Eduardo Navas doubled to get the rally going. Kroger then struck out Jeff Hendrix and it looked like the three-run lead would remain intact, but the RiverDogs put together a two-out rally for the ages. Park’s single moved Navas to third and Trey Amburgey singled to bring in Navas.
With runners at the corners and two outs, the Tourists changed pitchers, bringing in Justin Lawrence. It would not help. Connor Spencer drew a walk to load the bases, bringing the hot hitting Jhalan Jackson to the plate. The right fielder entered the game with five hits in the first two games of the series, and would not disappoint here either. He ripped a base hit up the middle, scoring Park and Amburgey to tie the score. Kyle Holder then drew a walk to load the bases again, and Coleman followed with a hard hit single to right field that plated Jackson and Spencer to make it 5-3 RiverDogs.
In the inning, Charleston sent 10 men to the plate. They recorded four two-out hits, and mounted another late game rally.
Trailing for the first time in the game, the Asheville Tourists rallied for a run in the top of the eighth. Marte singled to start the inning, and advanced to second on a balk. Two batters later Josh Fuentes was hit by a pitch and Yonathan Daza’s clutch two-out hit scored Marte to make it 5-4.
In the ninth, Andrew Schwaab looked to close the game out for the second straight game. He struck out Jones before walking Hilliard, but then retired Mundell and Marte, striking out Marte to end the game. It was Schwaab’s second save of the season.
Willie Gabay (1-0) earned the victory with 3.1 innings of outstanding relief. Lawrence (0-2) took the loss.
Coleman had a huge day at the plate, going 3-4 to raise his average to .294. He drove in two, including the game-winner. Park had two hits and scored a run.
The win moved the Charleston RiverDogs to 6-1. They now move onto play their first road game of the season as they head to the Augusta Green Jackets (3-4). Augusta will be opening their new ballpark. Joshua Rogers (0-1, 5.40) will go for Charleston. Game time is 7:05. Asheville (1-6) heads home to face the Rome Braves.
By Robert Pannier