Charleston RiverDogs Deliver Second Consecutive Walk-Off Victory
Well, no one can say that the Charleston RiverDogs games are boring this season. Just two games into the year, the team has already earned their second walk-off win over the Columbia Fireflies, this time coming in a more traditional way as Jhalan Jackson singled home Angel Aguilar to give the home team consecutive 5-4 victories.
The game began much in the same way that the previous night did. Columbia jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Charleston starter Will Carter. Carter retired the first two batters of the inning, but then yielded four consecutive singles. Vinny Siena got it started with a lined shot to center, and Dash Winningham followed with a single into right. David Thompson lined a pitch into center that scored Siena and J.C. Rodriguez lined one to nearly the same spot to send Winningham home.
Carter had been hit hard in the first inning, but the right-hander kept his cool, and rebounded to dominate over the next four innings. He struck out the side in the second, then gave up a one out walk in the third that was erased by a double-play. In the fourth, he hit the second batter of the inning but, again, induced a double-play to end the threat. In the fifth he struck out the first two batters before Ivan Wilson beat out an infield grounder to reach first, but he was wiped out trying to steal second. That meant the right-hander had retired the minimum over those four innings.
The 23-year-old was done after five innings, but proved that a slow start was not going to hamper a quality outing. He finished by allowing 5-hits and a walk in 5-innings pitched, while striking out 7.
P.J. Conlon started for the Fireflies and, staked to two early runs, he looked good through the first three frames. Charleston had one batter reach base in each of the first three innings, but only one reached on a hit, that was Hoy Jun Park in the third.
In the fourth, the RiverDogs finally got on the board. Chris Gittens led off with a walk, and moved to second on a single by Kyle Holder two batters later. Connor Spencer ripped a hard hit ball into right field for a single, moving the two runners up 90-feet. That brought Thairo Estrada to the plate, who grounded into a force out at second, scoring Gittens and cutting the deficit in half.
In the fifth, the RiverDogs would threaten again as Jeff Hendrix doubled with one out. Conlon would retire the next batter, but would then be replaced. Christian Montgomery uncorked a wild pitch that moved Hendrix to third, and Trey Amburgey walked to put runners at the corners with two outs. After Amburgey stole second, Gittens struck out and that threat was over.
The Fireflies had narrowly escaped giving up their lead in the fifth, but in the sixth the wheels came off. Jackson began the frame with a walk, and he scored when Holder ripped a hard grounder that found its way to the wall in right. Holder raced all the way to third and the game was tied. Spencer then gave his team the lead when he doubled to the wall in center. Spencer reached third on a wild pitch, and Estrada walked to put two on with one out. With Eduardo Navas at the plate, Estrada stole second. Tyler Moore’s throw to second was wild, allowing Spencer to score to make it 4-2.
It was an amazing comeback and looked like Charleston had this one in the bag heading into the ninth. Anyelo Gomez had dominated since entering the game in the sixth, but in the ninth he seemed to run out of gas.
David Thompson doubled to start the inning for Columbia, only the second hit Gomez had allowed. He retired the next two hitters, but then gave up a line drive double into left field that scored Thompson to cut the Fireflies deficit to just one.
That would be it for Gomez. Andrew Schwabb took over the hill, but he was greeted by a single to Milton Ramos that tied the game.
The Columbia dugout was hyped, but that would soon be shattered. Witt Haggard come into pitch and was able to retire the first batter of the inning, but Gittens drilled a double into right field to put the winning run 180-feet away. Angel Aguilar came into pinch-run, and Jackson came up huge, singling into center field to score Aguilar with the winning run. It was another great victory for the Charleston RiverDogs and a heart-breaking defeat for the Columbia Fireflies.
Schwabb (1-0) earned the victory despite blowing the save. Haggard (0-1) took the loss.
For the Fireflies, they got two hits each from Wilson and Thompson. Three RiverDogs players had two hits apiece, including Hendrix, Holder, and Spencer.
These two teams will square off once again tomorrow. Columbia sends Thomas McIlraith (0-0) to the mound. Charleston has not named their starter. Game time is 6:05 ET.
By Robert Pannier