In the South Atlantic League Southern Divisional series, the Columbus Catfish took game one in a big way, blasting the Augusta Greenjackets (Giants), 11-2.
It was supposed to be a pitcher's duel. It turned into a rout.
The Catfish scored three in the 2nd inning, when Matt Fields homered off the billboards behind left-center, driving in Seth Dhaenens, who led the inning with a single to left. Quinn Stewart followed with a double, moved to third on a 1-out single by Maiko Loyola, then scored on a ground out by John Matulia to give the Catfish an early 3-0 lead.
In the 5th, the Catfish increased their lead. Fields walked, then scored when Stewart homered to left field (MinorLeagueBaseball.com audio). With 1 out, Loyola and Matulia singled, chasing league ERA leader Kevin Pucetas from the game. After a double steal, Cesar Suarez drove in Loyola on a grounds out to third. Nevin Ashley followed with a 2-run homer, giving the Catfish and starter Heath Rollins an 8-0 lead.
Augusta closed the gap ... somewhat ... in the 6th, scoring on two doubles, and making it 8-1.
But the Catfish weren't done. In the bottom of the 6th, with 1 out, Loyola singled and stole second. Matulia singled to right, scoring Loyola. Suarez followed with a single that prompted another pitching change. A wild pitch by Augusta's Wayne Foltin allowed both runners to move up. Ashley singled, scoring Matulia. Then Ryan Royster reached on a fielder's choice that allowed Ashley to take second on an error and Suarez to scores. That put the Catfish up 11-1.
Augusta scored an unearned run in the 9th inning on a double, a two-out single, and a error, but it was way to little, way too late.
Rollins allowed one earned run in 7 innings work, allowing 5 hits, walking 2, and striking out three. He didn't allow a hit until the 4th inning.
Brian Baker pitched a perfect 8th, including 1 strikeout. Ryan Reid struck out three in the 9th, despite allowing an unearned run.
The Catfish 12-hit attack was paced by Loyola, who was 3-for-5 and 2 runs scored. Matulia, Ashley, and Stewart each had two hits. Fields, Ashley, and Stewart went long for the Catfish, accounting for 6 runs on those blasts.
Matulia and Loyola each stole a pair of bases for the Catfish, taking a page from the Augusta playbook. Augusta led the SAL in stolen bases (212), but some might be surprised to find that the Catfish were second in that department (200).
With the win, the Catfish are poised to take the Southern Division title and a berth in the SAL championship series. All they have to do is win one of a possible two games. Augusta will host game two of the series Friday night. If game three is necessary, Augusta will host on Saturday.
Update: The West Virginia Power (Brewers) were overpowering in their win against the Hickory Crawdads (Pirates) in the Northern Division series. West Virginia beat Hickory 12-2. The series will head to Charleston, WV for game two, and perhaps three. I know some folks are quite happy with tonight's game.