CHARLESTON, S.C. - 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.
It was the beginning of Larry Doby Heritage Weekend presented by MUSC Health as the RiverDogs pay homage to the Negro Leagues and the first African-American signed in the American League. As part of Saturdays Live at The Joe presented by NASH FM and Fox 24, the RiverDogs brought back the Helicopter Ball Drop for the Saturday evening contest as 3,000 bouncy balls fell from a helicopter. Select fans walked away with prizes, but the rolling grand prize rolls over to $8,000 for the next giveaway on the first Saturday of July.
Charleston will wrap up the first half tomorrow afternoon at 1pm. The Holy City will send the the hill right hander Nick Green (4-4, 2.85) to face Columbia's righty Gabriel Llanes (4-3, 2.93). Both teams will sport Negro League jerseys in honor of Larry Doby Heritage Weekend. The game can be tuned into on WTMA 1250 AM and streamlining online on MiLB.tv and the RiverDogs' TuneIn radio station.
RiverDogs tickets, including options for the all-new Riley Park Club, are now available and can be secured by contacting the box office at (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or online at www.riverdogs.com. Those that can't make it to the park can follow every pitch of the RiverDogs season on WTMA 1250 AM in the tri-county area or by streaming online at riverdogs.com and the TuneIn Radio App by searching "RiverDogs."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.