Sunday afternoon’s game between the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs and the homestanding Hickory Crawdads was a celebration of Mother’s Day as the hosts donned pink Crawmoms jerseys. But RiverDogs left fielder Canaan Smith will have a different memory of the day altogether.
Smith hit for the cycle to help lead Charleston to a 13-5 win over Hickory in front of 888 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The cycle was the first in the South Atlantic League this season and Smith was able to put together three of the four parts of the puzzle by the fourth inning. Smith doubled in the first, singled in the third and tripled in the fourth. The Rockwell, Texas, native, who was the New York Yankees’ fourth-round pick in 2017, completed the cycle with a solo home run in the eighth.
Smith said the accomplishment was certainly memorable.
“It was a great day,” said Smith, who is hitting .327 for the season. “I felt great and I’m glad we got the team win. Happy Mother’s Day.”
The cycle was a part of a 16-hit attack by the RiverDogs that put Hickory on the defensive nearly from the start. After a scoreless first, Charleston scored in each of the next four innings to build a 12-4 lead and was never threatened.
Facing starter Tim Brennan (2-2), Mickey Gasper walked to start the second and scored on Frederick Cuevas’ double. Ricky Surum’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
The Crawdads cut that deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. Melvin Novoa picked up his first hit since joining the club with a double off the wall in left. He later scored after a pair of wild pitches by Luis Medina.
However, the RiverDogs punched back in the third. Brandon Lockridge’s second homer in two nights started the inning. Later, Cuevas’ second double of the game scored two more to push the lead to 5-1.
Kyle Gray’s two-run homer in the fourth highlighted a three-run inning before Hickory finally pushed back.
Pedro Gonzalez started the rally with a single and moved to second on a Medina wild pitch. Tanner Gardner then walked, and on ball four of the at-bat, the ball scooted away from the catcher, Gasper. Upon retrieving the ball, Gasper fired to third in an attempt to catch Gonzalez advancing, but the ball bounced off the runner’s helmet and Gonzalez came in to score. Back-to-back RBI doubles by Sherten Apostel and Miguel Aparicio sneaked Hickory back within 8-4.
But the RiverDogs delivered the knockout punch with four in the fifth. Surum’s single scored Cuevas, who had walked. Eduardo Torealba singled in a run before Lockridge chased Brennan with a run-scoring double.
Smith said the key to the team’s success against Brennan, who was among the SAL leaders in ERA and WHIP entering the game, was to make sure they were ready to hit the fastball when it came.
“We knew he had a pretty good changeup,” Smith said. “His secondaries were pretty good. I just said to myself, ‘When I get the fastball, hit it. If not, just sit on it and try to hit it away.’”
Gray then greeted reliever Abdiel Mendoza with a double to the wall in left-center to score two.
Jonathan Ornelas’ third homer of the season completed the scoring for Hickory in the fifth.
At that point, it was a matter of whether Smith would complete the cycle. He lined out hard to second in the fifth. But in his final plate appearance, he took a 0-2 pitch from Mendoza over the fence near straightaway center.
While he insisted he had stayed with his approach at the plate and was not trying for the home run, he wasn’t unaware of what was happening.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t (know),” Smith recalled. “It felt great. Seeing the guys in the dugout and sharing it, it was a great moment.”
Wellington Diaz (2-0) entered the game in the fifth for Charleston and allowed five hits over the final 4.1 innings to earn the win.
Hickory’s loss, combined with a rainout of Greensboro’s game at Lakewood (N.J.), dropped the Crawdads (23-12) into third in the SAL Northern Division by a half-game. Charleston (20-16) remains in first in the Southern Division by 2.5 games over Augusta (Ga.) and Lexington (Ky.).
The Crawdads and RiverDogs close out the series Monday with a 10:30 a.m. start. The winner will claim the three-game series after Hickory came back to beat Charleston 4-3 in 13 innings Saturday night in a game that saw second baseman Tyler Depreta-Johnson pitch the final two innings and deliver the walk-off RBI squeeze bunt.