GREENVILLE, SC – Michael Paez homered twice and the Fireflies sunk Greenville on Thursday, 7-2. Columbia won two of three in the series and are now in first place for the first time since April 10. The Fireflies have a half game lead over Greenville with three games left in the first half and now control their own destiny. If Columbia wins its final three games, the club will clinch a playoff berth.
The Fireflies have gone 15-3 over their last 18 games. Columbia (39-26) was just a game over .500 on May 24 and trailed (at the time) first-place Greenville by six games. Since that date, Columbia has won 18 of its last 24.
Paez took the air out of Greenville's (39-27) sails quickly on Thursday. The soon-to-be SAL Home Run Derby participant demolished a three-run homer in the third inning and later drilled a solo dinger over the left-field wall in the eighth. Paez wound up driving in four runs.
His three-run bomb in the third helped the visitors take a 4-1 lead. Just before that, Luis Carpio plated a run off of starter Logan Boyd (L, 7-4). It was Greenville who had scored first in the second frame (a Roldani Baldwin solo home run).
The bottom of Columbia's order shined in the top of the fifth. Jose Medina laced a one-out single and moved up to second base when Tim Tebow mashed a base hit. Two batters later, new addition to the roster Dan Rizzie plated Medina with an opposite-field single. The Fireflies led 5-1.
After Paez's long ball in the eighth, Manager Jose Leger's club jumped ahead 7-1 when Tebow knocked in his 21st run of the season.
Baldwin went deep again in the eighth, but that was all that was left in the tank for the Drive. Columbia starter Harol Gonzalez (W, 4-4) was brilliant for a third straight start. Gonzalez recorded two outs in the eighth before he was eventually relieved. The right-hander from the Dominican Republic owns a 1.59 ERA over his last six starts.
Columbia finishes the first half of the season with three crucial games against the Charleston RiverDogs at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. South Atlantic League All-Star Jordan Humphreys (9-1, 1.41) is scheduled to start for the Fireflies and will face Charleston righty Nick Nelson (0-5, 5.91).
You can listen to the action on ESPN Columbia 94.9 FM and 1230 AM, ColumbiaFireflies.com and on the TuneIn app at 6:45 p.m.