A line of autograph seekers much longer than usual for a weeknight crowd weaved up the aisle from field level behind the Augusta GreenJackets dugout. Center fielder Dom Duggan was the center of the attention.
"You always want to treat the fans with the utmost respect," he said. "They've been out here for nine innings sweating as much as we have."
Duggan treated the fans to a 3-for-5 night and scored the game-winning run on a walk-off sacrifice fly from designated hitter Andy D'Alessio in the bottom of the ninth. The 3-2 victory over the Charleston RiverDogs brought the 1,582 in attendance to their feet.
After Duggan led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple, D'Alessio's shallow fly ball to right-center field was caught by All-Star right fielder Melky Mesa. His throw home appeared on time and on the mark until it skipped off the mound and allowed Duggan to score.
"I was sending him all the way," Augusta manager Dave Machemer said. "One out with Dom Duggan, the fastest guy in the league, what have you got to lose?" The nothing-to-lose mentality drove the GreenJackets against the top team in the South Atlantic League's Southern Division. Augusta, already eliminated from a shot at a first-half title with six games to play, spoiled the RiverDogs' chances to take a 21/2-game lead over the Greenville Drive, who also lost Tuesday.
GreenJackets starter Kyle Nicholson was perfect through three innings and allowed one earned run on four hits in seven innings. He said the spoiler role suits the team just fine.
"It's good to get a big win like that after this little two-game skid," he said.
The GreenJackets took a 2-0 lead with four consecutive hits in the third inning. Vladimir Frias (3-for-3) and Charlie Culberson (2-for-5) started the hit parade, and Duggan and Josh Mazzola followed with singles.
A throwing error by Frias, the first in 33 innings for Augusta, allowed two runs to score in the seventh. D'Alessio's game-winning hit came off Pat Venditte, the league's save leader.
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EARLY GAME TODAY
Lake Olmstead Stadium will come to life early today for a rare morning game.
The game, set for a 10:35 a.m. start, was scheduled by the South Atlantic League on request from the GreenJackets' front office.
"We're catering to a certain demographic: kids," general manager Nick Brown said. "A lot of times these kids won't have a chance to come out to a ball game in the evening, so we set it up so they could come maybe as part of a summer camp."
He said he expects around 2,000 children at the game.