COLUMBIA, SC - A crowd of 9,629 fans - a new Spirit Communications Park record - was on hand Monday to not only view the first transcontinental solar eclipse in 99 years, but also to watch the Fireflies walk off in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs and the game tied, Andres Gimenez drilled a base hit down the third-base line that plated the game-winning run. Monday's 6-5 victory over Rome was Columbia's sixth walk off win of the season.
The previous single game attendance record was set on July 4, 2016 (9,228). Spirit Communications Park also eclipsed 300,000 total fans for 2017. To be exact, 304,010 have made it out to Fireflies' games this season.
The home team struck first in the opening inning. Gene ConeandLuis Carpio worked back to back walks off of Rome (68-58) starter Joey Wentz. After J.J. Francobunted his teammates into scoring position, Ian Strom pushed a base hit into right field. The single scored both runners and Columbia (64-61) was ahead 2-0.
The Braves evened the score with a pair of runs in the top of the third. The game didn't stay tied for long. Brandon Brosher crushed a two-run home run to left field in the home half of the third. It was his 12th of the year. Later in the inning, Jay Jabs doubled and then scored on Arnaldo Berrios' single. The Fireflies held a three-run lead.
The advantage evaporated to two in the top of the fourth. With a runner at third, Isranel Wilson sent a deep fly ball to the wall in right field. Berrios leaped at the fence, robbed Wilson of a home run and fired the baseball back in. Despite the tremendous catch, Bradley Keller still tagged and scored.
The game was delayed for the eclipse in the middle of the fourth inning. Totality occurred at 2:41 p.m. and everyone at the park - from fans and employees to players and coaches - enjoyed the astronomical phenomena. After a 19-minute delay, the game resumed in the bottom of the fourth.
Ryder Ryan hurled two scoreless innings out of the bullpen and struck out a pair of Braves hitters. Because Columbia's bullpen was taxed from the 16-inning marathon the night before, the Fireflies sent Jabs - a position player - to the mound. The last time Jabs pitched was in college (Franklin Pierce) in 2016, but the righty recorded a one-two-three eighth inning.
Rome rallied with two runs in the top of the ninth off of Keaton Aldridge (W, 1-1). The tying run scored on a wild pitch, but Columbia would not be deterred. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Strom singled and stole second base against reliever Ryan Schlosser (L, 0-6). Brosher walked, which gave Gimenez a chance to be the hero. It was his first at-bat of the game after entering as a defensive replacement two inning prior.
The Fireflies visit the Greenville Drive on Tuesday and begin a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and southpaw Jose C. Medina (0-0, 0.00) is set to toe the rubber against Drive lefty Jay Groome (3-6, 6.53).
You can listen to the action on ESPN Columbia 94.9 FM and 1230 AM, ColumbiaFireflies.com and the TuneIn Radio app starting at 6:45 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.