NORTH AUGUSTA, SC - Sunday's matchup between Columbia and Augusta was one of the most entertaining games of the year. Nick Conti homered to help erase a two-run deficit, Alec Kisena hurled 5.1 gutsy innings but when it was all said and done, Augusta wound up scoring a late run that proved to be the difference. The GreenJackets defeated the Fireflies, 3-2, and clinched the second-half Southern Division title.
Augusta (40-29) is headed to the South Atlantic League playoffs and will face Lexington on Wednesday. The playoff picture is now set as Delmarva and Hickory will square off in the Northern Division Championship series this week as well.
The Fireflies had come back from two down and tied the score, 2-2, in the top of the fifth. The score remained even until the bottom of the eighth. Andres Angulo led off that frame with a triple and scored seconds later when Mikey Edie bounced a single through the middle. Closer Allan Winans came out of the bullpen later in the eighth to help squash what could've been a bigger inning for Augusta. Winans forced Sean Roby to hit into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and kept the deficit at just a run.
Bryce Tucker (S, 1) was lights out, though, in the top of the ninth. He retired the Fireflies in order and then joined the celebration. This is Augusta's first playoff berth since 2013.
Conti homered to knot things up in the fifth but Columbia (28-41) mustered just two more hits the remainder of the evening. Seth Corry, Matt Seelinger (W, 1-4) and Tucker retired the final 12 Fireflies hitters. The trio of GreenJackets hurlers were clutch when it mattered most.
The long ball aided both of these teams on Sunday evening, particularly in the early innings. The third batter Fireflies starter Alec Kisena faced, Frankie Tostado, drilled a two-run homer to right in the first inning. It was Tostado's team-best 18th of the season.
After Phil Capra drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, it was Conti who made some noise in the fifth. Conti caught a pitch from SAL Most Outstanding Pitcher of the Year Seth Corry and smashed it over the left-field wall. Conti's first homer as a Firefly knotted the score at 2-2.
The Fireflies had little trouble at times against the mighty Corry on Sunday. That fourth inning began with the first three batters reaching base - Chase Chambers and Guillermo Granadillo both singled while Shervyen Newton walked. Columbia collected six hits against the southpaw until it finally chased him off the mound in the sixth.
Newton and Granadillo both wound up with two hits.
Kisena proved just how courageous he is on the mound, bouncing back from the first-inning homer. Kisena pitched into the sixth and surrendered just three walks (no hits) from the second frame on.
Columbia closes out the 2019 season against Augusta on Labor Day at SRP Park. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 ET and you can listen to the action at FirefliesLiveStream.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.