Charleston, SC - The Hickory Crawdads earned a split of their doubleheader against the Charleston RiverDogs Friday night, as the 'Dads dropped the first game 4-2 but bounced back with a 3-0, shutout victory in the nightcap to leave town with the series win.
Both contests featured standout pitching performances, with Charleston's Brady Lail striking out 11 while earning the win in game one and Hickory's Tyler Smith tossing five shutout with seven Ks to pick up the win in the second game.
The first matchup featured a flurry of scoring early, followed by four scoreless frames in the 'Dads 4-2 defeat. RiverDogs leadoff hitter Jose Rosario set the tone early, as the third baseman hit the very first pitch in the bottom of the first over the left field wall for a solo home run and a 1-0 Charleston lead.
The Crawdads answered in the top of the 2nd when Travis Demeritte and Joe Jackson laced consecutive singles to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Two batters later the pair were still on the corners with two away, prompting 'Dads manager Corey Ragsdale to call for a double steal. Jackson purposefully got caught in a rundown between first and second, allowing Demeritte to run home and score to tie the game at 1-1.
The tie evaporated in the bottom of the frame however, as the 'Dogs got to Crawdads starter Frank Lopez for three runs on four hits to retake the lead at 4-1. Mirroring the start of the first inning, Charleston center fielder Brandon Thomas hit the first pitch of the inning for a solo shot to kick-start the rally.
The 'Dads narrowed the gap to 4-2 with a run in the top of the third, when Evan Van Hoosier tripled to left-center and scored on a throwing error at third.
That would be the last run scored by either team though. The Crawdads threatened one last time in the top of the 7th, placing the tying runs at second and third with two outs, but shortstop Michael De Leon struck out looking to end the game with a 4-2 Hickory loss.
Lail (6-1) earned the win for Charleston after allowing two runs on four hits with 11 Ks over six innings pitched. Lopez (3-2) took the loss with a season-high four runs allowed on four hits, four walks, and six strikeouts over six innings on the mound. RiverDogs reliever Chris Smith (1) picked up the save after leaving the tying runs on base in the 7th.
The Crawdads responded to the game one loss with a dominant pitching effort in game two, highlighted by Smith keeping the 'Dogs at bay over the first five frames. The 'Dads capitalized on the stellar pitching by jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the third when Kevin Torres doubled to right, took third base on a passed ball, and eventually scored on an RBI ground out by De Leon.
The narrow advantage seemed secure until the 6th, when Charleston used three-straight, 2-out walks by 'Dads reliever Ryne Slack to load the bases and threaten to take the lead. The Crawdads were able to escape disaster however, with right-hander Josh McElwee striking out Miguel Andujar to end the frame and strand the bases loaded.
Hickory picked up some much-needed insurance runs in the top of the 7th, when Nomar Mazara doubled to right and was driven in in the next at-bat on a two run moonshot homer over the left field foul pole by Demeritte to push the lead to 3-0.
The drama wasn't over though, as singles by Rosario and Kale Sumner put two men on and brought the potential tying run to the plate for the RiverDogs with only one out in the bottom of the 7th. McElwee bounced back with a caught-looking strikeout of Charleston right fielder Mikeson Oliberto, a call that Oliberto argued with home plate umpire Derek Gonzales to the point of being ejected. RiverDogs manager Luis Dorante was eventually ejected arguing the call as well.
Following the ejections, McElwee finished off the win with a strikeout of Tyler Wade to give the Crawdads the 3-0 win.
Smith (1-0) earned his first win of the season for the 'Dads with his shutout performance. Charleston starter Caleb Smith (3-3) was the hard luck loser after allowing only one run on two hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts over six innings pitched. McElwee (1) picked up the save by picking up all four of his outs via the strikeout.
Demeritte ended the double header going a combined 2-6 with his team-leading 8th homer of the year, while former Citadel star Jackson went 2-3 with a stolen base in his return to Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park.
The Crawdads (18-22) leave Charleston with two wins in the three-game series against the RiverDogs (21-19). The 'Dads will now start a 4-game set in Kannapolis against the Intimidators, with first pitch on Saturday scheduled for 7:05 pm.