'Rally fox' returns, sparks RiverDogs

Critter crosses field before Garcia smacks game-winning homer

The rally fox had not been seen much at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Ballpark since the 2016 season. (Charleston RiverDogs)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com | April 25, 2018 2:33 AM

The rally fox is alive and well at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Ballpark.

After becoming a regular among fans and players in 2016, the fox that frequently interrupted Class A Charleston home games was a no-show for nearly all of last year. And there was no sign of it this season.

Until Tuesday.

Video: Fox visits RiverDogs game

The rally fox emerged from the third-base dugout in the eighth inning of the first game of the RiverDogs' doubleheader against the Fireflies. With the score tied, 5-5, play was halted momentarily as it ran out to right field, then scurried away at Shoeless Joe's Hill.

"I was standing in the third-base coach box and it ran right behind me. I've never seen it before. It was really quick," said Charleston defensive coach Dan Fiorito, who served as acting manager for Julio Mosquera on Tuesday. "My first thought was, 'Man, we've got a doubleheader, here we are in extra innings, and now we gotta wait for this thing. But he took off in right [field] pretty quick, it wasn't bad."

When play resumed, Charleston shortstop Wilkerman Garcia stepped to the plate with Jason Lopez at second base, where he began the extra inning. After taking a pitch and fouling off another, Garcia did not miss the next one. The 20-year-old turned around a fastball from Carlos Hernandez (0-1) and blasted it high over the wall in right field for a walk-off roundtripper that gave Charleston a 7-5 victory.

Gameday box score

"You know, I didn't even really realize what was going on when they stopped play. I was just focused on my at-bat," said Garcia, who had never hit a walk-off homer in his career. "When I stepped in, I was sitting fastball, hoping to get a good one to drive. Then he threw me one middle-in and I took advantage of it. I put a good swing on it, and man, it was a great feeling. I was so happy."

"That ball was absolutely crushed. Even with the wind blowing in," Fiorito added. "He did a great job throughout the game, grinding out at-bats and getting into deep counts. He was fighting at the plate all night and I'm really happy for him. That was a huge moment for him. He's the guy we want up there with the game on the line."

The fox's magic appeared to linger as the RiverDogs withstood a 12-strikeout performance by Columbia's Chris Viall (1-1) to squeak out a 2-1 win and sweep the twinbill against the Fireflies.

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Nick Nelson (1-1) stood up to the challenge for Charleston, surrendering only three hits and one walk and striking out six over five scoreless innings. Lefty Anderson Severino gave up an unearned run in the sixth without giving up a hit while walking one, and righty Matt Wivinis nailed down his sixth save, striking out two in a clean final inning.

Chris Hess and Eduardo Navas plated a run apiece to complete the win in the nightcap.

"Viall had really good stuff tonight and I thought it really helped us to get those couple of runs early," Fiorito said. "We really tried to refocus after the first game and I thought the guys did a great job of that. Nelson has some electric stuff and he was fun to watch. The ball just explodes out of his hand. We're coming off of a tough series loss, so it was nice to come back home and start with two wins."

Not only did the RiverDogs get the sweep, but the rally fox reportedly wasn't injured in the excitement.

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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