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2023 Carolina League playoffs coverage

RiverDogs roll to their third straight crown as Rays affiliate
September 20, 2023

Championship Series

Championship Series

Sept. 19

RiverDogs 7, Wood Ducks 5
It was a tale of two halves for Charleston this season. After finishing with the worst record in the Carolina League in the first half, Tampa Bay's Single-A affiliate rode a 39-26 record in the second half en route to its third consecutive league title.

The RiverDogs defeated the Down East Wood Ducks to sweep the best-of-3 series. They became the first Carolina League team since 2008 to finish last in their division in the first half and go on to win the championship.

According to first-year Charleston manager Sean Smedley, the turnaround was part of the growth process.

“We had a young group, a talented group, but we had a lot of things to work on and get better at," he said. "It’s a testament to the guys -- they went out and got better each day. They started learning themselves and learned how to play this game at a high level, and they ended up winning the championship.” Full story

Sept. 17

Charleston racked up five hits and nine walks in the Carolina League Finals opener.Omar Torres/Charleston RiverDogs

RiverDogs 4, Wood Ducks 2
The 2023 postseason has been déjà vu all over again for Charleston so far. Just like 2022, the RiverDogs have made it to the Carolina League Finals and secured a victory in Game 1.

After bringing the power and racking up 18 runs to clinch the semifinals, Charleston showcased its pitching prowess to win on Sunday. After allowing two runs in the first frame, starter Jonny Cuevas proceeded to fan a career-high eight batters in five innings. The bullpen kept it going with four scoreless frames.

Offensively, the load was carried by 2023 second-round pick Colton Ledbetter. The No. 9 Rays prospect drove in three of the four RiverDogs runs, with a pair coming on a game-tying homer in the sixth. The other two runs came on bases loaded walks in the seventh.

Down East outfielder Jojo Blackmon went 2-for-3 with a two-run jack in the first, upping his OPS to 1.044 in the playoffs. Box score


Sept. 15

RiverDogs 18, Pelicans 4
Charleston combined for just two runs in the first two games of the semifinals; in the winner-take-all Game 3, they increased that offensive output ninefold.

The RiverDogs' offense fired on all cylinders to the tune of 17 hits and 18 runs. The lineup featured six multhit performances and eight players with an RBI to their name.

The offensive onslaught started in the third inning after a solo home run by Cooper Kinney gave Charleston a 3-2 lead. After scoring in the sixth and seventh, it piled on with a big fly from No. 5 Rays prospect Brayden Taylor in the eighth and a homer from Raudelis Martinez in the ninth.

Additionally, MLB's No. 95 prospect Xavier Isaac, recorded a career-high four hits along with three RBIs in the contest and shortstop prospect Ryan Spikes reached base four times, going 3-for-5 with a walk and two RBIs. Box score

Wood Ducks 4, Mudcats 3 (11 innings)
Each of the previous games between these two teams were decided by one run, and Game 3 was no different.

The Wood Ducks' pitching delivered from the jump. Right-hander D.J. McCarty struck out three batters in three scoreless frames before handing the ball over to Leandro Lopez, who spun 2 1/3 innings without a run to his ledger.

The only home run in the contest was walloped by No. 22 Brewers prospect Luke Adams to tie the game in the eighth. Adams swatted 11 home runs and stole 30 bases in 99 games with the Mudcats during the regular season.

The Wood Ducks' offense was headlined by Konner Piotto, who socked a two-RBI double in the first inning and reached base on a walk in the seventh. In the 11th, infielder Miguel Villarroel walked the game off with a sacrifice fly that plated Wady Mendez. Box score

Sept. 14

Pelicans 3, RiverDogs 0
Two masterful pitching performances enabled Myrtle Beach to shut out Charleston to tie up their best-of-3 semifinals series at Pelicans Park.

Drew Gray came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. The No. 15 Cubs prospect fanned six batters through three hitless innings, walking three and hitting a batter, to begin the game. Then right-hander Kevin Valdez, who was used primarily as a starter during the regular season, followed that up by striking out nine batters while scattering four hits in four innings of relief.

All of the Pelicans’ runs were scored on extra-base hits. Pedro Ramirez, who only went deep eight times in 104 games this season, got Myrtle Beach on the board in the fourth with a solo homer to left field.

Andy Garriola and Brian Kalmer added insurance runs with RBI doubles in the seventh and eighth respectively.

Marcus Johnson, the No. 17 Rays prospect, allowed two runs on seven hits and seven hits without a walk, striking out seven, in the start for Charleston. Box score

Mudcats 6, Wood Ducks 5 (10 innings)
When the dust finally settled on a back-and-forth extra-inning affair, the Mudcats had squeezed out a series-tying Game 2 win over Down East.

Carolina starter Patricio Aquino struck out five while scattering four hits without a walk over six scoreless frames.

The Mudcats scored two in the fifth on an RBI single by Luis Castillo and a sacrifice fly by Milwaukee's No. 19 prospect Dylan O'Rae, got another run in the seventh on Castillo's forceout and extended the lead on an RBI double by Jace Avina. During the regular season, the No. 30 Brewers prospect collected 22 two-baggers, the second-most by a Mudcats player this year.

The Wood Ducks promptly erased the five-run deficit. Miguel Villarroel plated a run in back-to-back innings, Game 1 hero Ian Moller singled in a run with one of his two hits and Gleider Figuereo drove in two more. The Rangers' No. 18 prospect collected 87 hits in 107 games this season.

In the top of the 10th with runners on the corners and nobody out, Jesus Chirinos plated the go-ahead run on a groundout to force a decisive Game 3. Box score

Sept. 12

Wood Ducks 4, Mudcats 3
Down East came out swinging in the best-of-3 semifinals series opener against Carolina at Five County Stadium, with seven Wood Ducks recording a hit in the game.

Ian Moller led the way with a two-run triple to left field in the top of the sixth inning. The 20-year-old backstop batted just .190 in 95 regular-season games this year. Konner Piotto added a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth.

The offensive output backed a solid outing by No. 4 Rangers prospect Brock Porter, who is ranked 91st overall by MLB Pipeline. The 20-year-old righty struck out eight batters while yielding just two runs on five hits without a walk over five innings. Porter, who struck out 95 in over 69 1/3 innings in his first professional season, went 0-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 21 starts for Down East.

No. 30 Brewers prospect Jace Avina, who went yard 14 times in 99 games for the Mudcats during the regular season, got the scoring started with a solo homer in the second. Milwaukee's No. 24 prospect Juan Baez collected two hits, including an RBI triple. Box score

RiverDogs 2, Pelicans 1
Charleston utilized strong pitching and mustered up just enough offense to squeeze by Myrtle Beach and win the best-of-3 semifinals series opener at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Ballpark.

Trevor Williams led the way with a seven-strikeout performance for Charleston, allowing one run on three hits and three walks over 4 1/3 frames. During the regular season, the No. 18 Rays prospect posted a 10-5 record with a 3.52 ERA in 22 starts, striking out 131 batters in 110 innings.

Cooper Kinney, who led the RiverDogs all year with 61 RBIs, got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning by beating a run-scoring single to shortstop. An inning later, Christopher Barete added an RBI double to right.

Brett Bateman , who posted a .298 average in 29 games with Myrtle Beach, plated the team's lone run on a line-drive single to center in the fifth. Box score