The old saying, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” has never been more true when looking back at the 2015 Charleston RiverDogs, led by manager Luis Dorante. During a campaign that saw the RiverDogs finish with an overall record of 66-74, 65 players suited up for Charleston.
In a season with so many pieces in and out of the lineup, the RiverDogs had issues maintaining a consistent offensive attack. They finished 10 out of 14 in batting average (.248) and 12 of 14 in runs scored (529 – only four more than 14th ranked Greensboro).
Charleston had to go with the opposite approach of the parent New York Yankees, manufacturing runs to win games. The Dogs swatted only 46 home runs on the season. Even with the issues on offense, there were certainly some standout performances.
Avelino was the first of this highly regarded group to get the call to the Tampa Yankees on May 2 by racing out to a .301 batting average in 20 games with Charleston. At the top of the lineup, Avelino set the tempo by stealing 16 bases in 19 attempts, forming a potent 1-2 punch with Mateo at the top of the lineup.
Fowler earned his promotion to the T-Yanks after starting off the year with the Dogs by hitting .307 in 58 games. At the time of his promotion, he had knocked in 31 runs and stolen 18 bases.
Mateo took over at the top of the lineup after Avelino’s departure and was the spark plug for the offense through August 5, when he answered the call from Tampa. Mateo exhibited explosive speed, leading all of minor league baseball with 82 stolen bases, 71 of which were with Charleston.
With the RiverDogs, Mateo had four games in which he stole four bases, and the highlight of his time in Charleston was an inside the park home run on May 25 against the Rome Braves. Mateo rounded the bases in a blazing time of 13.8 seconds.
As the season progressed, Mateo developed into a more patient hitter, taking more pitches and bases on balls. He consistently showed a strong arm defensively, with good range. These are the reasons the Yankees deemed him untouchable at the trade deadline.
Mateo wasn’t the only RiverDog called up to Tampa on August 5. Joining him was Billy Fleming, who ended up hitting .330, the highest of any Dog who played significant time at Charleston (26 games), while registering a .383 on base percentage.
Connor Spencer was the lone RiverDog representing Charleston in the SAL All Star Game in Asheville this year. Spencer earned his way by hitting .290 while posting an impressive .385 on base percentage.
Vince Conde played for four teams in the Yankees minor league system this year, but spent most of the year with Charleston. He earned player of the week honors for the week of 8/10-8/16 for the SAL while ripping four home runs, eight doubles while batting .600 and driving in 15. He led the team with 30 doubles on the season.
Austin Aune was the only RiverDog who was consistently in the lineup during the year playing 112 games. He ended up leading the team with eight home runs, 49 RBI, 10 triples and 102 hits.
Aune’s highlight of the year came on June 4, where he nearly hit for the cycle in a 10-5 win against the Asheville Tourists. Aune had four extra base hits on the day in the 10-5 RiverDogs win. He hit a home run of the inside the park variety, and in his last at bat needing only a single to complete the cycle, Aune ripped his second double of the game. He ended up 4-5 with two doubles, a home run, a triple and four RBI.
With so many players earning promotions to Tampa, the RiverDogs struggled through the middle of the season reaching their nadir in July when they scuffled to a 9-20 record.
The RiverDogs pitching staff kept the team competitive in 2015. As with the everyday players, there was a revolving door in the clubhouse for the pitching staff. Pitching coach Tim Norton kept everyone on point as they finished with a 3.46 team ERA, which was good for 5th in the South Atlantic League.
Jordan Montgomery set the tone early earning SAL pitcher of the week honors for the week of May 18-24 while putting up a 4-3 record with a stellar 2.68 ERA with Charleston. He struck out 55 in 43.2 innings before earning a callup to Tampa on June 1.
Caleb Frare provided excellent relief work compiling a 2.35 ERA in 46 innings of work while striking out 49. He appeared in 30 games with the RiverDogs, which was only second behind Dillon McNamara, who appeared in 38 games. McNamara compiled a 4-0 record out of the pen while pitching 61 innings of relief and a 3.23 ERA and exhibited excellent velocity that he needs to hone to continue to advance through the Yankees system.
Joey Maher had a breakout year, leading the team in wins with seven against five losses, and pitching to an ERA of 2.20 in 27 games, 18 of which were starts. He exhibited excellent control posting an impressive 0.98 WHIP in 118.2 innings while fanning 97 batters.
Justin Kamplain had some struggles through the year (5-14, 4.29 ERA), but finished strong earning SAL Pitcher of the Week honors for the final week of the season. In his last four starts of the season, Kamplain pitched to a 2-1 record with a 1.09 ERA, which helped propel the RiverDogs to strong 18-10 finish on the season. Kamplain finished 2nd in the SAL with 119 Ks on the season. Kamplain only yielded 38 walks in 136.1 innings pitched.
It was an eventful year off the field for the RiverDogs as well. The team honored the victims of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in downtown Charleston on June 17 by wearing a black armband on the left sleeve of their uniforms for the rest of the season. Proceeds from the June 18 game at Joe Riley Park were donated to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.
The RiverDogs set a new franchise record for attendance, with 292,661 filing through the turnstiles, smashing the previous high of 284,718 in 2007. To celebrate the new record, the RiverDogs raffled off a 1998 Honda Civic with 285,000 miles on it.
Looking forward to 2016, Charleston only has to look to the success of Staten Island Yankees to get a sense of what lies ahead for the RiverDogs. Much of the Baby Bombers roster figure to make the transition next year to Charleston. The SI Yanks ended up just short of the New York Penn League