Hickory Drops RiverDogs 7-6 In Opener

CHARLESTON, SC - Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro led the Hickory Crawdads offense to a 7-5 victory over the Charleston RiverDogs Thursday night in South Atlantic League play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in front of 5,947 fans.

The RiverDogs are now 42-34 on the season and 3-5 in the second half. They fall to fifth place in the Southern Division with the loss. The Crawdads now move to 45-33 on the season and 6-2 in the second half. They are in first place of the Northern Division for the second half of the season.

Before the RiverDogs could record the first out of the night, Hickory struck with the first run of the game. Nick Williams (3-4, 2 RBI) led off the first inning with line drive single to left field and then scored on a Jorge Alfaro (2-3, HR, 5 RBI) double to left-center.

Charleston answered with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the frame. With two outs, Greg Bird singled to left field, advanced to second on a Dante Bichette, Jr. walk, and then scored on a Reymond Nunez line drive double down the left field line. Bird's single extended his personal and team best hitting streak to 11 games. Later in the inning, Jake Cave (2-4) extended the lead to 3-1 as he plated Bichette and Nunez with a single to center field.

In the top of the third inning the Crawdads answered with a run. After reaching on an error, Luis Marte (2-3) went to third on a Williams single and then scored the second Hickory run on a sacrifice fly to right field off the bat of Jorge Alfaro.

The RiverDogs extended their lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning. After reaching on an error, Aaron Gates scored on an Angelo Gumbs triple to center field.

Hickory came right back and tied the game in the top of the fifth inning. Lewis Brinson and Luis Marte began the inning with back-to-back singles. Williams then blasted a ground-rule double to left-center field that scored Brinson and Marte and evened the score.

Crawdads starting pitcher Frank Lopez was relieved by Jose Valdespina (2-1) in the fifth inning. In four innings of work, Lopez surrendered four runs on five hits while walking three batters and recording three strikeouts.

The lead shifted back to the RiverDogs favor in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a ground-rule double, Cave advanced to third on a fielder's choice and later scored on a Cito Culver single.

The lead was short-lived, however. Following a Brinson walk and a Marte bunt single, Jorge Alfaro smashed his 11th{}home run of the season to give the Crawdads a late 7-5 advantage.

Cody Kendall entered the game for Hickory in the ninth inning. Charleston would not go down quietly, however. Bichette tightened the game with his fifth home run of the season and made the score 7-6. Kendall eventually got Kelvin De Leon to line out to right field to end the game and pick up his seventh save of the season.

Valdespina was the eventual winner for Hickory. In two innings of work he allowed one run on two hits and struck out one batter as he earned his second win of the season.

In the sixth inning, RiverDogs starting pitcher Luis Niebla was relieved by John Brebbia (0-1). Niebla's final line was five innings pitched, four runs on seven hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Brebbia, who was tagged with the loss, went two innings, allowed three runs on three hits and struck out five batters. Phil Wetherell also appeared for two innings and allowed no runs and no hts.