SALISBURY, MD - In a game filled with much pregame energy, it was Columbia Fireflies starter Gabriel Llanes who put a clamp down on the Delmarva Shorebirds, winning the series opener 7-1 on Wednesday night at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
Llanes (1-2) came one out shy of a shutout, allowing just one unearned run on seven hits in a full nine innings. He walked one and struck out five on 97 pitches. Adding on his stellar start against the Shorebirds (15-17) last Tuesday, Llanes has allowed just two runs (one earned) in 16 innings against Delmarva hitting.
Lucas Humpal (1-3) took the loss despite another quality start, giving up three runs on nine hits in six innings.
The Fireflies (16-16) opened the scoring in the top of the third. Desmond Lindsay hit a tough groundball to shortstop that Irving Ortega airmailed into the seats, sending Lindsay to second on the single and error. Ricardo Cespedes, in his first at-bat of the season for Columbia, rolled his own single through the hole on the right side, scoring Lindsay to make it 1-0.
Columbia struck again in the sixth as Luis Carpio and Michael Paez led off with back-to-back singles. Dash Winningham drew a walk to load the bases, bringing Tim Tebow to the plate. With an inflated Wednesday crowd of 4,753 largely on-hand to see the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Tebow poked a grounder through the right side hole and raced all the way to second with a two-run double, making it 3-0 Fireflies.
The visitors padded their lead with crooked numbers in the seventh and ninth. Dash Winningham laced a two-out two run single to center in the seventh. In the ninth, Gene Cone led off with a double and scored on a pair of groundouts. Back-to-back doubles by Paez and Winningham produced another run to put the Fireflies up a touchdown.
The Shorebirds ruined the Llanes shutout in the bottom of the ninth. Preston Palmeiro led off with a solid single to center, and Gerrion Grim cracked a single to left two batters later. A passed ball allowed both runners to move up, and Palmeiro scored on an Alejandro Juvier groundout. Llanes then induced Daniel Fajardo to fly out to right to wrap up his complete game bid.
Ryan McKenna went 2-for-4 for the Shorebirds, while Palmeiro, Grim, Juvier, Frank Crinella, and Ortega each added another hit, all singles.
Paez paced the Columbia attack, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs. Tebow finished the game 2-for-5 with the two-run double, as well as two strikeouts and a double play groundball.
Cespedes, who is of no relation to Mets' slugger Yoenis Cespedes, went 3-for-4 with an RBI in his first full-season game.
The Shorebirds and Fireflies now prepare for a single-admissiondoubleheader on Thursday evening. Zach Muckenhirn (1-2, 2.90) gets the nod in Game One against SAL Pitcher of the Month for April Merandy Gonzales (4-1, 1.89). Delmarva has yet to name a starter for Game Two. First pitch of the first game is 6:05 p.m., with gates opening one hour prior. Both games will last seven innings. Thursday is Social Media Vote Hat Giveaway night presented by Spicer Bros. Construction Inc., featuring the black and gray hat fans voted on over the winter; the first 500 fans through the gates get one. Pregame coverage on Fox Sports AM 960 and the MiLB First Pitch app begins at 5:50 p.m. with Will DeBoer on the call.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.