After dropping the previous six games against their division rivals, the RiverDogs held the Fireflies in check for the second game of the series as they put a two spot up in the fifth that powered them to a 3-0 victory on Saturday night in front of 7,331 fans at Joe Riley Park.
Right fielder Alexander Palma got his first RBI of the season as he doubled to score what ended up being the decisive run in the fifth. Charleston's bullpen continued to dominate through the three innings of relief work for starter Brian Keller (5-5). Relief pitching now holds a 1.84 ERA on the season.
Charleston broke open the scoring in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead. Catcher Donny Sands reached to lead off the inning after getting hit by a pitch from Columbia's starter Thomas Szapucki (1-1). After getting moved over to second from a ground out, Sands scored on an RBI double from Palma. First baseman Mandy Alvarez drove in another on a sacrifice fly to score Palma.
Shortstop Diego Castillo helped add insurance in the eighth. Palma walked to lead off the inning and the Venezuelan native hit a base hit up the middle to make it 3-0.
David Sosebee came in for relief of Keller and tossed the seventh and eighth innings to keep a goose egg on the board for Columbia and set up for the closer Garrett Mundell. Columbia had a chance in the ninth with the bases loaded, but came up empty as Mundell collected his seventh save of the season.
Keller walked a career-high four, but was nearly unhittable in the shutout, fanning eight and allowing just two hits across six innings to bring his ERA to 3.64. It was the All-Star hurler’s eighth quality start in his 12th and final outing to close out the first half.
Szapucki suffered his first loss of the season after tossing six innings, allowing two runs on three hits to lower his ERA to 3.86.
The Columbia loss keeps Greenville in the hunt after the Drive lost to Rome 8-5 and remain a half game back heading into tomorrow’s finale. Columbia controls their own destiny and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over Charleston on Sunday afternoon.
-per Charleston RiverDogs