For the third straight night, the Fireflies scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, defeating the Greenville Drive on Saturday, 7-3, at Fluor Field. It’s also the third straight night that Columbia (10-7) erased a deficit in the sixth inning or later to win. Manager Jose Leger’s team has now won four in a row and five of its last six.
The ninth inning rallies are becoming a regularity in Greenville (9-8). The Fireflies trailed 3-2 heading to the final frame. To start the ninth, Drive reliever Kuehl McEachern (L, 1-1) plunked the leadoff batter, Milton Ramos, in the back and watched him slither down to second base after Ivan Wilson singled.
Two batters later, Vinny Siena knocked a base hit down the right-field line to score the tying run. Wilson — representing the go-ahead run — galloped to third base and was just 90 feet away from scoring. After being inserted into the game as a pinch-runner the previous frame, Tucker Tharp stepped to the plate for the first time. He promptly sliced a fastball through the hole on the right side of the diamond to plate Wilson and put his club in front, 4-3.
The next batter, Jeff Diehl, provided the insurance runs. The righty cleared the bases when he drilled his second home run in as many nights over the 30-foot, replica “Green Monster” left-field wall. Columbia led, 7-3, and Seth Davis (W, 1-0) recorded a perfect bottom of the ninth to preserve the win.
In three nights, Columbia has outscored Greenville 12-0 in the final inning.
Saturday started just as Friday night’s contest did, with the Drive scoring first. The home team mustered two runs in the bottom of the first, only to watch that lead split in half in the top of the fourth. Diehl walked (one of his three on the night), moved to second base after a wild pitch, and scored thanks to Vicente Lupo’s double.
Greenville extended its lead back to two runs when Luis Alexander Basabe doubled in Kyri Washington in the sixth, but the visitors answered in the following frame. Wilson ripped another double — his third of the series — and tagged and scored from third base after Siena’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Starter Tyler Badamo also gutted through 6.2 innings, surrendering three runs, but, most impressively, was superb pitching with runners on base.
The Fireflies can sweep the four-game road series in Greenville with a victory on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. Right-hander Joe Shaw (2-0, 1.50) goes for Columbia against Drive lefty Logan Boyd (2-1, 3.86).
You can listen to the action on WGCV 620 AM and 105.1 FM, ColumbiaFireflies.com and the TuneIn Radio app starting at 3:45 p.m.
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