HICKORY, NC - Ronny Mauricio , a South Atlantic League All-Star, was electric on Thursday night in Hickory. The Mets prospect doubled twice, homered and recorded maybe the finest day at the plate for any Fireflies hitter this season. Hickory walked it off against Columbia, though, in the bottom of the ninth inning and won the opener, 4-3.
Mauricio became the first Columbia (23-36) batter to tally three extra-base hits in a game this year. In fact, that's just the fifth time that's happened in franchise history. The 18-year-old also became the first Firefly hitter to score three runs in a game this year and his eight total bases are a team-best in 2019.
With the score tied, 2-2, in the eighth, Mauricio led off the inning with a solo home run to right against Hickory (38-22) reliever Kelvin Gonzalez (W, 2-0). It was Mauricio's second blast of the year and looked as if it might have been the most important hit on Thursday.
The Crawdads answered in the bottom of the ninth. In nearly identical fashion, Hickory's lead-off batter that frame, Sherten Apostal, took Columbia reliever Jose Moreno (L, 2-2) deep. It was Apostal's eighth dinger of the season. Moreno then proceeded to hit the next batter, Pedro Gonzalez, and allow a single to Matt Whatley. Melvin Novoa's double off the left-field wall brought in the winning run.
Mauricio scored all three of Columbia's runs on Thursday. The 18-year-old doubled twice - first to start the game in the opening frame and then again in the sixth. It was Hansel Moreno who plated Mauricio both times. Moreno gave his team a 1-0 lead in the first and then his run-scoring single in the sixth tied things up at 2-2.
Mauricio, the native of the Dominican Republic, is now hitting .293 to lead the club and is fifth in the league with 63 hits.
Thomas Szapucki , another Mets prospect, was transferred back to Columbia's roster on Thursday and made his seventh appearance on the slope. The lefty allowed the first three batters to reach in the first inning but then retired the final five hitters he faced. Szapucki, who missed all of the 2018 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, struck out three in his two innings of work.
Top 1: Ronny Mauricio doubles and advances to third on an error commit by right fielder Pedro Gonzalez; tags and scores on Hansel Moreno's sacrifice fly. COL 1, HIC 0
Bottom 3: Sherten Apostal's sacrifice fly allows Kole Enright to tag and score from third. COL 1, HIC 1
Bottom 4: Jose Almonte plates Matt Whatley with a single up the middle. HIC 2, COL 1
Top 6: Mauricio once again doubles and scores when Moreno singles into centerfield. COL 2, HIC 2
Top 8: Mauricio homers. COL 3, HIC 2
Bottom 9: Melvin Novoa doubles and scores Apostal. HIC 4, COL 3
The second game of the series is slated for 7:00 ET on Friday evening at L.P. Frans Stadium. Columbia trots right-hander Christian James (2-4, 4.39) to the mound to face Crawdads righty Yerry Rodriguez (5-2, 2.20). You can listen into the action on the TuneIn app.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.