Thairo Estrada collects his third home run in two days as the RiverDogs split the series
LEXINGTON, KY – The Charleston RiverDogs dropped a heartbreaker in Sunday’s finale against the Legends, coughing up a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning as Lexington walked off over the RiverDogs, 8-7, at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. With two outs in the final frame, Legends catcher Xavier Fernandez singled to right to drive in a pair and complete the comeback for the Legends who salvaged an improbable split of the series against Charleston.
The RiverDogs (22-13) slugged two more home runs in the loss, including one by Thairo Estrada, his third in the last two games and one of nine long balls in the four-game series in Lexington.
With Charleston leading 7-3 going into the ninth, Willie Gabay stepped back onto the mound after notching a 1-2-3 eighth to finish out the ballgame. The hard throwing righty yielded a leadoff to single to Cody Jones before issuing back-to-back walks to the top two in the order. Enter Charleston closer Andrew Schwaab (3-1), who gave up a two RBI single to the first batter he faced, Samir Duenez, to cut the RiverDogs’ lead in half. The former Missouri Tiger next forced a weak ground out back to the mound, and then punched out Ben Johnson before issuing a walk to Travis Maezes that loaded up the bases. On the first pitch to Fernandez, Schwaab sailed a pitch wide to the backstop that allowed Lexington shortstop Martin Gasparini to score and make it a one run game, setting up the late heroics for Fernandez.
Schwaab took the loss and was charged his third blown save of the season in nine chances.
In what started out as a pitcher’s duel between RiverDogs righty Yefrey Ramirez and Legends southpaw Emilio Ogando, the scoreless ballgame was cracked open in the fourth by a three-run inning by the RiverDogs offense. Chris Gittens singled with one out and Connor Spencer drew a walk before shortstop Kyle Holder singled to load up the bases. Continuing his hot start in Charleston, Leonardo Molina smoked a base hit to left to give the RiverDogs a 2-0 lead. Kendall Coleman would poke a check swing ground ball back to the mound that was thrown wide by Ogando to allow a third run to score.
Ramirez cruised through the first three frames in his fourth start of the season for Charleston, retiring the first eight batters in order before issuing a two out walk to Jones in the third. The native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic would give up an RBI single to Johnson that made it 3-1, but would squeak out of a bases loaded jam to limit the damage.
With the lead cut to two, the RiverDogs put up another crooked number in the fifth inning. Estrada ripped a solo home run over the short porch in right, his fifth of the season, and Chris Gittens drove in three more with a bomb to straightaway center field that made it 7-1 RiverDogs.
Lexington got two back in the seventh off of the RiverDogs bullpen, tagging Hobie Harris for a pair of runs on a two RBI single by Amalani Fukofuka that cut the Charleston lead to 7-3 and gave the Legends a fighting chance going into the ninth.
Despite the loss, the RiverDogs remain in first-place in the Southern Division of the South Atlantic League standings with a 3.5 game lead over the Columbia Fireflies in second.
The RiverDogs enter part two of their weeklong road trip as they take on the Greenville Drive, the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, starting on Monday night at Fluor Field with the first pitch set for 7:05pm. The RiverDogs will send RHP Daris Vargas (2-0, 2.61) to the toe the rubber with the Drive’s starter still to be announced. The RiverDogs will play three against their in-state rival before returning to The Joe for a seven-game homestand starting on Thursday, May 19.
Ticket information for the RiverDogs’ upcoming homestand and any of the remaining home games can be secured by contacting the box office at (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or online at www.riverdogs.com. Those that can’t make it to the park can follow every pitch of the RiverDogs season on WTMA 1250 AM and streaming online at riverdogs.com.