Darius Day Drives in Four in Hickory Crawdads 5-3 Victory
It was a battle of division leaders in the South Atlantic League Saturday night, as the Southern Division leading Charleston RiverDogs played host to the Northern Division leading Hickory Crawdads. Powered by four RBI from left fielder Darius Day the Crawdads jumped out to a two-run lead, then survived a bases loaded, one out situation in the ninth to win the first game of the four-game series, 5-3.
Simon De la Rosa started for Charleston against Wes Benjamin. Both pitchers kept the game scoreless through the first inning, but in the second Hickory jumped out to a two-run lead. With one out, Yeyson Yrizarri singled to center and moved to second when Ti’Quan Forbes walked. Jose Almonte followed and blooped a single just out of the reach of RiverDogs first baseman Chris Gittens. That loaded the bases with one out and brought Day to the plate. He lined a sharp single into right field that scored both Yrizarri and Forbes to make the score 2-0.
Benjamin breezed through the first four innings, retiring all 12-batters he faced. He would extend that streak to 14 after the first two batters of the fifth were retired, five of those on strikeouts. The RiverDogs seemed to have no answer for the Hickory starter, but Angel Aguilar was finally able to bring the streak to an end by clearing the center field wall with his third home run of the season. That cut the Charleston deficit in half.
In the top of the sixth the Crawdads extended their lead to four. With Cody Carroll on the hill, Tyler Sanchez was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. Yrizarri then walked and Forbes followed by attempting to sacrifice both runners into scoring position, but Gittens made a great play and then fired to third to gun down the lead runner. Almonte was the next batter and he would ground a single through the hole and into left field to load the bases for Day. Again, the Crawdads left fielder delivered, drilling a double to the wall in left field, scoring both Yrizarri and Forbes. A sacrifice fly by Eric Jenkins scored Almonte to make it 5-1.
The blowout seemed like it was on, but the RiverDogs know how to claw themselves back into games and that is exactly what they did. In the bottom of the sixth they got one of those runs back. Johan Juan relieved Benjamin and issued a walk to Leonardo Molina to get it started. Eduardo Navas singled moving Molina to third. A sacrifice fly by Jeff Hendrix brought Molina home and it was 5-2.
In the bottom of the seventh the RiverDogs would cut the deficit to two. Aguilar showed that he has power and speed, singling to begin the inning and then stealing his sixth base of the season. A ground out moved him to third and he scored on a balk to make it 5-3.
That would be the score heading into the bottom of the ninth. Connor Spencer led the frame off with a walk, and that brought John Werner in to close it out. Aguilar had other ideas, however, doubling to left field to move Spencer to third. Werner showed great poise, striking out the next two batters, but he then hit Navas to load the bases with two outs. This had the makings of one of the RiverDogs classic walk-off wins that they have seemed to make routine this season, but Werner struck out Hendrix to end the game and preserve the win for his first save of the season.
Benjamin (2-1) earned the victory with an outstanding outing, going 5-innings, allowing just 1-hit, 1-run and no walks, while striking out 5. Of his 59 pitches, 38 were strikes as he lowered his ERA to 3.24. De la Rosa (1-2) took the loss.
Day had a huge day at the plate, driving in four while going 2-4 with a double. Almonte was a perfect 3-3 with a run and a walk. Forbes was 2-3 with 2 runs scored and a walk for Hickory.
Aguilar had the big bat for the Charleton RiverDogs, going 3-4 with 2 runs, an RBI, a double and a homerun.
By Robert Pannier