RiverDogs sweep to second straight championship
Much like it did all season long, Charleston dominated in the playoffs en route to a second straight title. The Single-A Rays affiliate completed a sweep of the Carolina League Championship Series with a convincing 6-2 victory over Lynchburg on Tuesday night at Bank of the James Stadium.
Much like it did all season long, Charleston dominated in the playoffs en route to a second straight title.
The Single-A Rays affiliate completed a sweep of the Carolina League Championship Series with a convincing 6-2 victory over Lynchburg on Tuesday night at Bank of the James Stadium.
The RiverDogs finished their championship run with a perfect 4-0 mark in the playoffs. The team outscored opponents 29-14, while only trailing for a single inning throughout the postseason. That was after a regular season in which Charleston posted a league-best 88-44 record and +174 run differential.
"I think this group as a whole, from Day 1 throughout the entirety of the season showed up to work every day, wanted to get better every day, stayed hungry and they were never content," RiverDogs skipper Blake Butera said. "So credit to them for wanting it that badly and wanting to be successful, and when you finish a season off this way, it's a surreal feeling."
Against the Hillcats, it was a group of Tampa Bay's top prospects who sealed the deal for Charleston. Third-ranked Carson Williams (MLB No. 84), Brock Jones (No. 12), Junior Caminero (No. 19) and Ryan Spikes (No. 29) all drove in at least one run, while 27th-ranked JJ Goss was brilliant on the hill to set the tone early for the RiverDogs.
Goss carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and exited after allowing two runs on five hits and one walk while whiffing seven over a career-high 6 1/3 frames. The right-hander yielded a leadoff single to Jordan Brown in the sixth and allowed another single in the inning but escaped the frame unscathed, recording three outs on five pitches.
The 21-year-old surrendered a leadoff homer to Isaiah Greene in the seventh and after inducing a groundout to second and notching his seventh punchout on the night on Will Bartlett, Goss yielded a single and an RBI triple before being replaced by Antonio Jimenez. He exited after throwing 59 of his 82 pitches for strikes.
"JJ's season really started taking off in the second half," Butera said. "He's a competitor on the mound and just one of those guys that when he's out there you feel calmness and confidence because of what he's done for us this year."
Goss' effort was more than enough for Charleston's offense. Williams opened the scoring with his second home run of the championship series, a solo shot to center on a 2-1 offering from Lynchburg starter Trenton Denholm. Williams finished with two hits, a walk and a pair of runs scored.
"It was an 0-0 game at that point, so that home run just made us feel like, 'OK, here we go. We can do what we do and score runs,'" Butera said. "We felt good with JJ, and the bullpen we have is outstanding, so any lead we have we feel good about."
In the sixth, Caminero opened the scoring in the frame with an RBI single to right, and Jones capped a four-run frame for the RiverDogs with a two-run dinger to right-center with two outs.
Bobby Seymour, who drove in the club's other run in the sixth, led all hitters with a 4-for-4 night that included a pair of doubles, a walk and two runs scored.
After the Hillcats plated their two runs in the seventh, Spikes capped the RiverDogs' scoring with an insurance run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly to left that plated Seymour.
For the first 41 years of the franchise's history, the team went without winning a championship. Since becoming a Rays affiliate prior to the 2021 season, the team has posted the best record in Minor League Baseball and earned back-to-back titles.
"The whole feeling is pretty surreal," Butera said. "Just very fortunate to be around some incredible players and staff."
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.