Brian Keller, David Sosebee and Garrett Mundell combined to shutout the Columbia Fireflies 3-0 Saturday evening in front of a sellout crowd of 7,331 at Joe Riley Park to prevent the Fireflies clinching the first half Southern Division title.
Keller (W, 5-5) pitched six innings allowing just two hits and striking out eight Fireflies. “(Keller) had his second consecutive really good start. He was really good against them last time out and he continued it tonight. He worked around a couple of walks there early in the outing, but he made a couple of pitches to get out of it. Another quality start by Brian,” RiverDogs manager said of Keller’s start.
“I think I’ve just tried to be more aggressive the last few games. Just attacking hitters and getting in and out of innings as quick as possible,” Keller said of his performance. “I think actually I’ve though less mechanically and more just go out and pitch,” he added.
David Sosebee (H, 2) pitched two innings while Garrett Mundell earned his sixth save of the year with a scoreless ninth. “(Mundell’s) kind of held down that closer role for us since the season started. He was really good again tonight. He just has a knack for missing bats. He did that again tonight,” Osborn said of his closer’s performance.
Offensively the RiverDogs only had four hits on the evening, but they used them efficiently They took the lead in the fifth off Columbia starter Thomas Szapucki (L, 1-1). Szapucki hit lead off hitter Donny Sands with a pitch. Isiah Gilliam advanced Sands to second with a ground out to third base. Alex Palma brought Sands home with a double down the left field line to make it 1-0 Dogs. Palma would advance to third base with Mandy Alvarez at the plate on a wild pitch. Alvarez would drive in Palma with a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 2-0 Dogs.
The Dogs would tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth off Fireflies reliever Joseph Zanghi. Zanghi walked Palma to lead off the inning. Mandy Alvarez advanced Palma to second on a ground out to second baseman Michael Paez. Diego Castillo would drive Palma home on a single to center field to make it 3-0 Dogs.
Much of the sellout crowd was there to witness former University of Florida and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow did line a single to center field and went 1-for-4 on the evening. “(Tebow’s) great for the game. He’s great for the league. Whatever league he goes to next, he’ll be great for that league. It’s a great environment for these kids to play in. It’s electric, a lot of energy. It keeps them on their toes. You know it’s a little precursor to what they’ll see as they climb the ladder. Once they get to New York, it’ll be on a much bigger stage, but this gives them a little taste,” Osborn said.
With the loss, Columbia missed an opportunity to clinch the first half Southern Division title which would mean a berth in the South Atlantic League playoffs. The second place Greenville Drive fell to the Rome Braves 8-2. With that loss, if the Fireflies would have won, they would have clinched the first half title. If they can defeat the RiverDogs Sunday afternoon at Joe Riley Park, they would clinch no matter what Greenville does against Rome tomorrow. If the Flies lose and Greenville loses, the Flies would clinch the division. If the Flies lose and Greenville wins, then the Drive would be playoff bound.
With the win, the RiverDogs improve to 33-36 on the year while the Columbia Fireflies drop to 40-27.