After a successful road trip -- splitting with Greensboro and taking 3 of 4 from Hickory -- the Columbus Catfish return home Thursday night in first place in the Southern Division of the South Atlantic League. They moved into first place thanks to a loss by Asheville ... and the Catfish 4-1 win over the Hickory Crawdads (Pirates).
The Catfish scored in the top of the first. Nevin Ashley drove in Cesar Suarez, who had reached on a double, to put the Catfish up 1-0 early.
In the 6th, Ashley walked with 2 outs, stole second, and moved to third on a wild pitch. Ryan Royster walked, then stole second and, on the same play, Ashley scored, getting credited with a steal. Royster then scored when Quinn Stewart doubled to left, putting the Catfish up 3-0.
In the 7th, Jairo De La Rosa singles with 1 out, stole second, and scored on John Matulia's single, and the Catfish had a 4-0 lead.
Hickory closed the gap in the 8th, scoring a run then loading the bases. Neal Frontz relieved Catfish reliever Ryan Owen to get out of the inning. He allowed a base runner in the 9th, but set down the next three batters to pick up his 17th save.
Starter Jeremy Hellickson pitched 6 innings, allowing 2 hits, and struck out 7. Owen allowed a run on 3 hits and struck out 2 in 1-2/3 innings.
Suarez and De La Rosa each had 2 hits for the Catfish. Ashley stole 2 bases, while De La Rosa, Royster, and Stewart each stole one.
The Catfish took 3 of 4 from the Northern Division leaders, and now have the best record in the 2nd half, not only in the Southern Division, but in the league, at 32-19. The Catfish hold a 1/2 game lead over Asheville, who visit Columbus for 4 games beginning Thursday night. The Catfish also sport the 2nd best home record in the league.
This series ... along with 6 games upcoming against Charleston ... could determine the 2nd half champions and a spot in the playoffs.