COLUMBIA, SC - The Fireflies returned back to Segra Park on Tuesday after the off day looking fresh and energized. Columbia vaulted itself back into first place with a 4-1 series-opening win over Augusta. The Fireflies were sharp in every phase of the game on Tuesday - pitching, timely hitting and clean defense. With Rome's loss to Charleston, the Fireflies, GreenJackets and Braves are all tied for first at 10-9 in the second-half Southern Division standings.
Columbia (10-9, 34-51) has now won the opener of three straight series. Starting pitcher Christian James (W, 3-7) led the home team to victory on the mound. He allowed just one run in 6.1 innings of work that culminated in his third win of the season. James has been very consistent over the last two months: the Floridian owns a 3.27 ERA over his last 10 outings (52.1 IP).
The defense was wonderful behind James and relievers Bryce Hutchinson and Allan Winans (S, 4), too. The Fireflies didn't commit an error and actually turned three double plays to aid their hurlers.
Columbia had to rally from down a run in the first inning. James allowed a lead-off single to Augusta's (10-9, 46-41) Ismael Munguia before retiring the next two batters on groundouts. With Munguia sitting at second, Frankie Tostado ripped an RBI single into right field. James soon retired Zander Clarke and worked out of the jam.
That proved to be James' lone hiccup. The right-hander at one point retired eight straight hitters from the second through the fourth innings. Twice he made athletic plays fielding sharp grounders off the mound - first in the fourth scooping up a slow roller and throwing out Clarke at first and then stretching for a bouncer to his left off the bat of Orlando Garcia in the seventh.
The Fireflies knotted things up at 1-1 in the second frame after tallying three consecutive hits against Augusta starter Keaton Winn (L, 3-6). Wagner Lagrange struck the first of his three hits on Tuesday through the left half of the diamond and then moved into scoring position when Shervyen Newton doubled. The table was set for the South Atlantic League's best second-half hitter. Hayden Senger roped a base hit into right against Winn and brought home Lagrange. A double play ball moments later ended the potential big inning for the home team.
It worked once in the second, so Columbia did it again in the fourth. This time, Senger stepped to the plate with Chase Chambers at third base. Senger flew a Winn pitch out to right that was caught by Diego Rincones. His throw to the plate was up the third-base line and Chambers, who had just tagged up, scored. The Fireflies swung ahead, 2-1.
The home team plated some insurance runs in the eighth. Both Mark Vientos (double) and Lagrange (triple) drove in runs with extra-base hits. In total, Columbia tallied five extra-base hits in the win, including two doubles from Newton. Lagrange finished 3-for-4 at the dish with an RBI, his third three-hit game of the season. With 12 more hits on Tuesday, Columbia now has 57 over its last five games and has recorded 10 or more in four straight.
Chambers was the other Fireflies batter with a pair of hits. Senger's two RBI increased his second-half total to 16 (in just 17 games). The catcher has yet to fall back to Earth and is hitting an eye-popping .459 in the second half.
On Wednesday, right-hander Tylor Megill (3-0, 1.42) is expected to start for the Fireflies in the middle game of the series against the GreenJackets. First pitch is scheduled for7:05 ET and Augusta is expected to trot righty Adam Oller (2-2, 3.69) out to the mound. You can watch the game at MiLB.TV.
Wednesday is a Trash the Poop Wag-A-Long Wednesday. Dogs are welcome to Segra Park for the game.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.