In 1892, Columbia fielded its first professional team, the Columbia Senators, in a very early version of the South Atlantic League. The team lasted just one season before the league folded. Columbia joined the the Southeastern League in 1896 but the team disbanded after the season. The Columbia Skyscrapers became a charter franchise in the newly formed Class-C South Atlantic League in 1904. The team became the Gamecocks the following season and remained so through the 1910 season. In 1911, the Comics was the moniker, but that was changed to the Columbia Comers in 1912. After sitting out the 1913 season, the Comers returned to the Sally League in 1914. In 1915 Jessie James went 15-5, and the Comers won the league title. The Comers dropped to second place in 1917 but were eligible for the playoffs. Columbia defeated Charleston in the title series to win its first South Atlantic League championship that year.
The Comers returned to Columbia after World War I in 1919 and began their third stint in Sally League with three successive league titles. In 1919 Walter Johnson batted a league-high .362, with 150 hits, as Columbia edged out Charlotte by one game. Columbia won its second league title in 1920 by a more comfortable seven-game margin over Greenville.
Larry Cheney led all pitchers with 183 strikeouts and Alva Nalley scored a league-high 92 runs. A young kid named Goose Goslin batted .317 in 90 games to help the 1919 cause. Cheney, whose big league career started with three appearances for the Cubs in 1911 and concluded after nine games with the Phillies in 1919, caught on with Columbia in the 1920 season.
Columbia ran away with the 1921 title as Charleston was left 11 and a half games behind. One man played a dominant role in Columbia's 1921 title, Goose Goslin. Continuing to develop as a player, Goslin batted a league-high .390 while leading the Sally League with 124 runs scored, 214 hits, and 131 RBIs.
In 1922, the Comers cooled off to a third place finish. During the 1923 season, Columbia was forced to move to Gastonia, NC, where they finished the sea
ENTER BARNEY DREYFUSS- HALL OF FAMER
Whether intentional or by coincidence, Barney Dreyfuss and Columbia have a special connection.
Dreyfuss, then the innovative owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, had a vision for baseball in Columbia in the 1920s when he revitalized the Columbia Comers, a minor league affiliate of the Pirates. When the team did not have a stadium, Dreyfuss put up the funding for a new facility off Assembly Street, which opened in April 1927.
The stadium is now known as Capital City Stadium, home of the Columbia Blowfish. The Blowfish honored Dreyfuss by wearing Comers uniforms and "turning back the clock" the day Dreyfuss was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"We believe that field represents the legacy and history of baseball in Columbia," Blowfish President Bill Shanahan said. "Our goal is to make our community aware of the tremendous history of the game of baseball at this field."
The first game at Dreyfuss Field was played May 21, 1927. The field remained Dreyfuss Field until the late 1940s."It's pretty impressive that we can still play on this field and honor a man who built it so long ago," Shanahan said. Although the stadium is no longer named after Dreyfuss, the street behind the stadium is.
In Pittsburgh, Dreyfuss had the ability to draw fans to the ballpark, and he brought that same mentality to Columbia. When the Blowfish honored him, they made the stadium as vintage as possible.In Cooperstown, the Dreyfuss family returned the favor. Andrew Dreyfuss, the owner's great grandson, mentioned Columbia in his Hall of Fame induction speech."The fact that Barney Dreyfuss, who did so much for baseball in Columbia, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame gives the town of Columbia a connection to Cooperstown that it can be proud of," Shanahan said.
Through 1930, was a barren period for Columbia baseball fans. Columbia moved out of the Sally League for the first time since the turn of the century when a team was fielded in the Piedmont League in 1934. However, the lackluster Sandlappers moved to Asheville, NC, during the 1934 season where they finished in last place.
Columbia rejoined the Sally League in 1936. The Senators warmed the league basement in 1936 and '37. Columbia became a member of the Cincinnati farm system in 1938 and the Columbia Reds improved to third place after an infusion of much-needed talent. In 1941, Bobby Adams and Clyde Vollmer added some offense to Columbia's roster and moved the team up to second place. The Columbia Reds dropped to fourth place in 1942. The next year, Columbia suspended baseball operations because of World War II and returned at the end of the war for the 1946 season. The city of Columbia wasted little time in preparing for a resumption of the national pastime.
When the Reds returned to the diamond for the 1946 season, the club's tailor was the first to take notice of one Ted Kluzewski, a thoroughbred Midwestern kid. He was born in Illinois, played football at Indiana University and eventually would play Major League Baseball in Ohio and Illinois. First going pro with the Columbia Reds in '46, Kluzewski, a 225-pound first baseman with massive biceps, led the Sally League with a .352 average and paced the Reds to a second-place finish. Kluzewski also led the league with 118 hits and 87 RBIs in 90 games while playing first base and some outfield. Kluzewski made his major league debut at the end of the 1947 season and made the starting lineup in 1948. After 11 seasons with the Reds, "Klu" was traded to the Pirates in 1957. After 1,718 games, Kluzewski departed the game as a .298 hitter.
In 1947, Joe Adcock turned professional with Columbia and hit .264 for the eighth place Reds. Adcock returned to Columbia for the 1948 season and batted .279 in 117 games for the fourth place Reds. Over 110,000 turned out for games. In 1949, the Reds fell back to eighth place, but over 100,000 fans took the time to visit new Capital City Stadium. Adcock debuted as the Cincinnati Reds' first baseman in 1950, but landed in Milwaukee in 1953 after being traded for Rocky Bridges. After 17 seasons and 1,959 games, Adcock retired as a .277 hitter.
The 1950's was a decade of success for the Columbia Reds compared to decades past. The Reds started hot with a third-place finish in 1950 but went cold with an eighth-place finish in '51. The Reds put it all together in 1952 and won the regular-season title. More than 110,000 fans turned out to watch the Reds finish the season with a 100-54 record, a still-active Columbia record for wins in a season. The season ended on a sad note, however, as Columbia lost to Macon in the playoffs. Barney Martin won 23 games for Columbia that season. He appeared in one game and pitched two innings for Cincinnati in 1953 for his major league record. In 1953, the Reds dropped to second, but won the league championship by defeating Columbus and Jacksonville in post-season play. The Reds earned a fourth-place finish in 1954. More than 75,000 fans watched as Frank Robinson hit .336, scored 112 runs and connected for 165 hits in 132 games. Robinson returned for 80 games in 1955 and helped the Reds capture another regular season pennant. By the time the playoffs had arrived, though, Robinson had departed Columbia. His absence was missed as Columbia lost to Augusta. Charlie Rahe led the newly-named Columbia Gems in 1955 with 21 wins, 219 strikeouts, and a 2.01 ERA. He went 0-4 in 11 games with Cincinnati between 1957 and '58. The Gems finished sixth in 1956 and seventh in the '57-'59 seasons. The Columbia Reds returned in 1960, finished in first place during the regular season but lost to Savannah in the playoffs. Ken Hunt won 16 games and fanned 221 batters to pace the Reds that year. In 1961, the Reds dropped to fourth, but Ted Acosta won the league batting title to brighten up the season.
Capital City Stadium remained empty until 1983 when a new team came to town. Columbia became an affiliate of the New York Mets in 1983. The Columbia Mets appeared in post-season play six times and have captured two South Atlantic League Championship Trophies. In 1948, Manny Lee led all batters with a .329 average. Bud Harrelson arrived to pilot Columbia in 1985. Columbia defeated Asheville for its first Championship as a Met affiliate in 1986. Butch Hobson became the Mets' pilot in 1987 and remained through the '88 season. The Mets took second-place in 1989.
The Mets had three pennants under their belts in the 1990's, but fell off a bit in '93. In 1993, the Mets logo was removed and replaced with the Bombers. Attendance reached 146,676 in 1995, the highest in Columbia baseball history. Besides Manny Lee, other players who have stopped in Columbia on their way to the big leagues have included Dave Magadan, Todd Hundley, Anthony Young, Kevin Baez, Jeff McKnight, Randy Meyers, Jeff Gardner, Gregg Jeffries, and Dave Mlicki.
The Bombers moved to Greenville, South Carolina at the beginning of 2005 leaving Capital City Stadium empty for the first time in 22 years.
From the Skyscrapers, Gamecocks, Comers, the Sandlappers, Senators, Reds, Gems, Reds again, Mets, and Bombers, you can tell the baseball tradition runs deep in the Midlands of South Carolina, stretching from the 19th century into the 21st century. In 2006 the Boys of Summer returned to "The Cap" as the Columbia Blowfish, in the Coastal Plain League/Summer Collegiate Baseball.
COLUMBIA, SC – For the first time in nearly two years, the concourse and grandstand at historic Capital City Stadium was abuzz with activity, as Columbia's new Coastal Plain League baseball team took to the field for their inaugural season. Indeed, "baseball was back" in the Capital City, and the Blowfish didn't disappoint. The 2006 season featured exciting CPL baseball, promotions, and plenty of peaks for the members of Columbia's newest team.
Below are some of the happenings that made the 2006 season a memorable one:
-Blowfish lead the league in attendance
The Columbia Blowfish led the Coastal Plain League in attendance in just their first season in existence, drawing over 46,000 fans to "The Cap."
The figure was a record for a first-year franchise in the league, despite several bouts with bad weather and two full-scale rain outs. The number included a season-high 4,182 fans for a 4-0 win over the Wilmington Sharks on July 4th and a strong opening night turnout of 3,600 on June 2nd.
-USA Baseball returns
After a 10-year absence, the Team USA National squad returned to Capital City Stadium for a special exhibition game on August 1st. Unlike their last visit though, an exhibition against the Cuban National Team, the USA Baseball team came into "The Cap" to square of with Columbia's own Blowfish.
Team USA, comprised of the top college players in the nation, proceeded to put on quite a show for the some 3,600 fans that attended the match-up. USA went on to beat the Blowfish by a score of 9-0, highlighted by two monstrous home runs courtesy of Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez and Tennessee's J.P. Arencibia.
There were some bright spots for the Blowfish as well: 13 Columbia pitchers combined to limit USA to just five hits and pitched three consecutive shutout innings to close out the game.
-No-No at "The Cap"
While Major League Baseball was putting on its annual All-Star game in far-away Pittsburgh, Pa., one Blowfish was busy putting the finishing touches on an all-star performance of his own.
David Anderson, a freshman at Coastal Carolina in Conway and a former standout at nearby White Knoll High School in Lexington, pitched the franchise's first no-hitter in a 1-0 win over Wilmington July 11.
Anderson set a single-game individual record for strikeouts with 13 in the victory and faced the minimum 27 batters in the contest. He finished just an error and a walk short of a perfect game.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander would go on to lead the Blowfish pitching staff with a 5-2 record and a 1.24 ERA and finished as the team's top hitter with a .261 batting average with a team-high 19 RBIs.
-Other All-Star performances
Two Blowfish were selected to represent Columbia in the 2006 CPL All-Star Game at J.P. Riddle Stadium in Fayetteville, NC.
Sid Fallaw, a freshman at the Citadel from King Academy in Batesburg, SC, was selected as a catcher for the American squad. Fallaw started for the American squad in their 7-6 win and went 2-for-2 in the game with a run scored.
Spartanburg Methodist pitcher Nick Godwin was also selected but could not compete due to a foot injury.
Lander Pitcher Chris Munn enjoyed a stellar season on the mound for the 2006 Blowfish, going 4-5 with a 2.24 ERA. The right-hander also led the Coastal Plain League in strikeouts with a 91 Ks in just 72 and a third innings pitched. He also broke Anderson's single-game strikeout record set earlier in the year, recording 16 strikeouts in a July 28 win over New Bern.
-The USC Connection
The Blowfish roster featured eight players who were either current or future Gamecocks.
Among the most notable, USC fans got their first look at two pitchers who were likely to contribute for the Gamecocks in the future, as Spartanburg Methodist's Godwin and Jordan Costner put up outstanding numbers in their first season in Columbia.
Costner went 2-1 with 0.51 ERA in 35 innings pitched as the Blowfish's closer. He also recorded a team-high six saves.
Godwin went 3-1 with a 1.10 ERA before injuries cut his summer short.
Both key transfers joined the Gamecocks the following fall.
-Good times and bad
In the course of their inaugural season, the Blowfish had their share of high and lows.
Columbia put together two five-game winnings streaks on the year, even climbing atop the CPL Southern Division with an undefeated start to the second half of the season. The second five-game streak also featured three shutouts by Blowfish pitching.
But just as in any baseball season, the lows came as well. While the Blowfish struggled on offense for much of the year, at no time was it more apparent than during a rough stretch in mid-June. The Blowfish dropped 12-of-14 games and averaged just 1.2 runs-per-game during that span.
Despite all their struggles though, the Blowfish didn't fall out of the race for a wild-card berth in the playoffs until the last week of the season.
Columbia Blowfish 2007 in review
By Alex Riley
With year one in the books, the Columbia Blowfish looked make sure there would be no sophomore slump for the 2007 season. And indeed there was no slumping at Capital City Stadium as the Blowfish provided a season full of excitement and possibilities through to the end.
Here are some of the games, people and events that made 2007 at "The Cap" a season to remember:
-Walk-off wonder versus Japan
International eyes turned their attention to Capital City Stadium over the June 30-July 1 period as the Japanese Collegiate All-Stars traveled halfway around the world for their first game on American soil starting with the Columbia Blowfish.
Over 100 members of the Japanese media turned out at the game to follow the progress of pitching sensation Yuki Saito.
Trailing 3-0 in the sixth inning, Columbia put on a furious rally against none other than Saito himself. The Blowfish scored four runs with hits on the superstar to take a 4-3 lead.
The Japanese tied the game in the top of the eighth and things remained deadlocked going into the bottom of the ninth. With two men on, infielder Greg Phelps stepped into the batters box and sent a shot just to the left of dead center field for a walk-off home run.
"I was proud of the way our kids competed," Blowfish coach Tim Medlin said after the game. "We talked about national pride a little bit. That is Team Japan and they represent their country and for this one time we were Team America tonight."
-All-Star game back in Columbia
For the first time in over a decade, Capital City Stadium played host to a league all-star game as the 2007 Coastal Plain League All-Star Game and Fan Fest took over the ballpark for two days of fun and baseball.
The opening night Fan Fest brought out the best sluggers from the league in the home run derby contest. Mike Lyon of the Petersburg Generals won the player home run derby with a total of 22 points. But it was the Media Home Run Derby and Hot Dog Eating contest that had many fans entertained. Over 30 participants from all different media outlets turned out but it was WOLO ABC 25 who got a clean sweep as sports anchor Terry Chick won the hot dog title with nine dogs and sports anchor Tim Hill took home the long ball title with 25 points.
The action during the All-Star game the following day was well worth the wait as the National team defeated the American team 9-3. Spartanburg's Kyle Bowley hit the second of five straight hits in the sixth inning to score a run en route to earning offensive MVP honors. Casey Hodges threw two scoreless innings to earn the victory and the defensive MVP honor.
-Godwin makes amazing comeback
For his second consecutive summer, Nick Godwin joined the Columbia Blowfish.
The North Augusta native used the summer of 2007 to prove he was back from an injury last season as he complied a 7-4 record with a 2.34 ERA in 12 starts over the year. Godwin ranked 1st among league pitchers in strikeouts with 81 and was 1st in starts.
Though the Blowfish lost 1-0, the right-hander tied David Anderson for the second most strikeouts in a game by a Columbia player. His 13 strikeouts against Fayetteville on June 13 is bested only by Christopher Munn's 16 strikeouts on July 28, 2006.
For his efforts on the year, Godwin was named to the CPL All-Star team for the second year in a row, this time as the starter for the American Team.
-Blowfish put four on All-Star roster
Aside from Godwin's selection to the 2007 CPL All-Star game, the Blowfish placed three other players on the American team roster.
Columbia outfielder Alex Lee was named a starter after an impressive first half in which he was one of only two Columbia players to hit over .300. The Clemson freshman and Blythewood native finished the season with a .304 average and had 16 RBI.
Joining Lee in the outfield was reserve player Justin Greene. The junior from Francis Marion came back mid-way through the first half to mount an impressive campaign and for much of season was one of the top three hitters on the team. Greene finished the summer batting .259 with 3 home runs.
The last addition the American roster came in the form of Blowfish pitcher Brandon White. Another Francis Marion player, White didn't make the All-Star squad originally but was added after another player declined to play. The junior went 6-1 on the year as the second man in the team rotation.
-USC Alumni game brings excitement to sold out Capital City Stadium
Taking a break from the CPL schedule on July 3, the Blowfish gave some familiar faces in Columbia a chance to step back out on the diamond one more time as they played host to the USC Alumni Team.
With names like Trey Dyson, Garris Gonce and Stephen Bondurant taking the field, a sell out crowd of over 6,000 fans turned out to watch as some of the best talent from the memorable USC teams of the last decade took on the some of the best talent in the state of South Carolina today.
The Blowfish and USC alum's remained close the whole game, but the Alumni Team got three runs in the late innings to hold on for a 7-4 win.
"You get to see some of the guys hat you don't stay in that close of contact with so that's always great," said Bryan Triplett who finished with three RBIs. "I hope this happens again. A sold-out crowd, playing in front of the USC fans again, it was great. I'll be back if we do it again."
-In it until the end
Despite a sub .500 record, the Blowfish remained in contention for a Petitt Cup playoff spot for nearly the entire season.
After finishing the first half with a 14-13 record, Columbia struggled in the second half. But with three games left in the season, the Blowfish were still battling the Wilson Tobs for the last spot in the Petitt Cup.
However, Columbia did play some solid baseball against some of the leagues' top tier teams. The Blowfish finished the season with 11 wins over the eight teams that made the Petitt Cup.
Among those wins were three wins against Fayetteville. The Swampdogs finished the season with an all-time league record of 42-14 en route to a No.1 overall seed.. But three of those losses came at the hands of Columbia including one at J.P. Riddle Stadium. Added to that, Columbia also took a victory from No.2 seed Thomasville on the road.
2008 Season in Review
By Ryan Brown
The third season for the Columbia Blowfish brought back familiar faces, a fair
share of ups and downs, accomplishments, and most importantly on all levels kept
baseball alive in the state capital of South Carolina. The Blowfish enjoyed the most
historic year in their young franchise on local and national levels.
-2008 Hall of Fame Ceremonies
Barney Dreyfuss was one of the original founders on the World Series, which takes
place at the culmination of each season to determine the world champion of
baseball. In the 1920's, Dreyfuss built the stadium that the Blowfish play in today.
He was inducted into baseball's hall of fame during Columbia's 2008 season and
the honor was accepted by his grandson, Andrew. The night of the ceremonies in
Cooperstown, NY, the Blowfish honored Dreyfuss by wearing "Turn Back the Clock"
vintage uniforms against the Wilmington Sharks. The Blowfish didn't disappoint,
turning in a 13-4 blowout win against the Sharks. Every Blowfish started had
either a run scored or an RBI in the triumph. In turn to honor Columbia, Andrew
Dreyfuss acknowledged the Blowfish by mentioning the team in his speech on
behalf of his great grandfather. Andrew called the night at Capital City Stadium "a
wonderful tribute." The Blowfish organization also took part in the correction of
the spelling of "Dreyfuss" street that runs next to the stadium.
-Capital City Stadium hosts USA baseball national team for exhibition and trials
Team USA returned to Columbia for a three day exhibition in June. After a
absence of over a decade, the national baseball team has now been in the state
capital two of the last three years. The national team trials consisted of a "blue vs
white" intra squad match up and the 2008 Blowfish taking on Team USA. The 'Fish
almost pulled off a shocking upset, as they strung together three hits, plating two
runs to take the early lead after the first inning. The lead stuck until two outs in
the eighth thanks to six Blowfish pitchers combining for the shutout. Team USA
showed why they were the nations elite, stringing together seven runs for the late
victory. The offensive explosion in the eighth and ninth were highlighted by three
home runs. The national team went on to win the World University Baseball
Championship in the Czech Republic, marking the second straight time they went
on to win the championship after a visit to Columbia.
-Blowfish just miss huge upset as hosts of 2008 Coastal Plain League Petitt Cup
The Columbia Blowfish added another honor to their organization's resume, as
league officials awarded Columbia, SC and the Blowfish as hosts of the 2008
Coastal Plain League Petitt Cup. The league's end of the season tournament
featured eight of the 14 teams in a four day tournament. The Blowfish, in their
third year, finished the second half 14-14 and took a "nothing to lose" mentality
as the host squad. After day one rain, the Blowfish and its fans had to wait an extra
18 hours and the 'Fish almost pulled off the biggest upset in Pettit Cup History.
Columbia took a 5-4 lead against two-time defending champion and tournament
number one seeded Thomasville going into the bottom of the eighth. After two
quick outs and a walk, the Hi Toms rallied thanks to timely hitting and a Columbia
fielding error in a 7-5 win. Lost in the disappointing defeat was Columbia's David
Anderson and his two home runs and three runs batted in.
In three full seasons as members of the Coastal Plain League, the Columbia
Blowfish have now been honored with the three major awards as an organization.
The Blowfish hosted the Petitt Cup in 2008, the mid-season All Star game in
2007, and was awarded the 2006 Organization of the year.
2009 Season In Review
By Matt Long
2009 was a tumultuous season for the Blowfish.
The team struggled out of the gate, going 9-19 to start the year. There were still some highlights in the season's first half. On June 6, over six thousand spectators attended Military Appreciation Night at Capital City Stadium. Over 3,500 soldiers from nearby Fort Jackson made up the bulk of the capacity crowd. They were treated to a pitcher's duel as Columbia and Thomasville combined for only three hits. Blowfish starter Tyler Christman (USC Sumter) gave up no earned runs in six innings. However, the Hi-Toms took advantage of three errors, as the defending champions won 2-1.
Columbia's lone walkoff win of the season came on June 26 in extra innings as Matt Williams (Liberty) drove in Richard Mounce (Clemson) to help the Blowfish defeat the Wilson Tobs 6-5 in the 10th.
Two current Blowfish, and four former players, were drafted in June. Oliver Santos (USC Salkehatchie) was chosen in the 37th round by the Cincinnati Reds and Tyler Christman was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 44th round.
On July 2, the Blowfish made a coaching change. Tim Medlin, who led the Blowfish for the first three years of the team's existence, was replaced at the helm by Lee Gronkiewicz. Gronkiewicz, a former closer for the University of South Carolina, had spent the previous seven years in the minors (making his Major League debut with Boston during that time). Gronkiewicz was recovering from Tommy John surgery when he was approached by Blowfish owner/president Bill Shanahan about the opening in Columbia. Gronkiewicz had never coached at any level prior to taking the job. Coach "Gronk" made his debut in a 3-2 loss against Florence that night.
On July 3rd, the Blowfish took on the USC Alumni in the third annual "Gamefish Cup" between the two teams. The Blowfish kept possession of the Cup with their second consecutive victory in the rivalry, 5-0. It was the first shutout in the short history of the Cup. Erik Sommerville (Francis Marion) pitched five shuout innings to get the win and Jim Rider (Kent St) was 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
Unfortunately, the first two weeks of July were rough on Columbia. The Blowfish lost their first ten CPL games under Coach Gronkiewicz. The losing streak was snapped in dramatic fashion on July 13, however. Columbia trailed first-place Fayetteville 8-3 in the fifth before rallying with fifteen unanswered runs to pull the shocker, 18-8. The 'Fish were able to string together a winning streak over the next week, going 5-1 and finishing the season on a 9-6 run to end with an overall record of 19-36.
2010 Season in Review:By Shane Glass
History in the Making: The 2010 Season of the Columbia Blowfish
2010 was a season of historic proportions for the Columbia Blowfish. Although the end results were not what the team had in mind when the year began, their 24 victories were the most the team has ever collected in a single season.
Opening Night May 27th
The Home Opener for the Blowfish was attended by Atlanta Braves Great, Dale Murphy! The Blowfish organization flew Dale in to meet and greet the fans at Historic Capital City Stadium. Not only did he meet every fan, he autographed everything the fans wanted signed all the way through the 8th inning Earlier in the day,. Dale also made a visit to The Palmetto Health Cancer Center to provide support for the patients and staff. Though, the Blowfish went down in defeat on the field -they hit a home run for the community as they entered their fifth season in the Coastal Plain League.
Military Appreciation Night
June 12th saw a packed house at Capital City Stadium when the Blowfish hosted the Morehead City Marlins in a doubleheader as they celebrated the Annual U.S. Army's Birthday/ Fort Jackson Appreciation Night. The Blowfish dropped the first game in the twin bill, but did not disappoint as the lights came on. Columbia fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first, but stormed back to take control of the game. Brison Celek (South Carolina) launched a three run drive deep over the left field fence as the crowd went nuts. Military heroes were honored throughout the night from various branches of the Armed Forces, and Columbia went on to win the contest 9-3.
Dramatic Rally Brings Home Victory
On June 28th, Columbia began a three game road trip in Morehead City. The Fish struggled all night against Morehead City pitching, scratching out just two hits in the game's first eight innings. The game looked all but over as they trailed 9-1 heading into the top of ninth. But the Blowfish tallied 10 runs in the top of the ninth, thanks to six consecutive hits to start the inning. Closer Derrick Smith (Erskine), who had finished the bottom of the eighth, pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the 11-9 victory.
Independence Day Weekend with the USC Alumni
The weekend of July 2nd, 3rd, and 4th was the biggest of the year for the Blowfish. Nearly 10,000 fans took in Blowfish baseball and celebrated America's birthday as Columbia hosted three games that weekend. The biggest night came Saturday as the Blowfish took on the USC Alumni in front of nearly 5,000 fans. Ray Tanner, 2010 National Coach of the Year and Head Coach of the Defending NCAA Champion South Carolina Gamecocks, was in attendance as the crowd collected over $1,000 to benefit the Ray Tanner Foundation. The teams treated the fans to a great game, as the Blowfish won for the third time in the 4th annual meeting for the GameFish Cup in 10 innings.
Blowfish Run Crazy
At the beginning of the season, Head Coach Lee Gronkiewicz described his team as "the fastest team in the CPL", and they certainly delivered on that promise. At Capital City Stadium on Sunday July 18th, the team flew by the single season record for stolen bases by a team. The team was lead by several outstanding individual efforts on the year. The Blowfish finished with three of the top four stolen base seasons. Taylor Black (Kentucky) and Nick Orvin (Citadel) both stole 28 bases on the year (Black doing so in just 23 games), which tied them for third in the league. But that total was not even good enough to lead the team.
Arias Makes History
Branfy Arias entered this season, his third in the CPL, with 27 career stolen bases, but truly came into his own as a base stealer this season. Arias lead the Coastal Plain League with 45 stolen bases on the year. On July 18th, the same day the team broke the stolen base record, Arias swiped second base as part of a double steal, at the time giving him 59 stolen bases in his CPL career. That mark exceeded Eddie Van Es' total of 58 from his time with the Pilots. Arias completed his CPL career with 72 stolen bases.
The Blowfish sent three starters to the 2010 CPL All-Star Game in Forest City, North Carolina during the summer of 2010. Infielder Chase Vergason (Florida Atlantic), center fielder Nick Orvin (Citadel) and right fielder Branfy Arias (Tusculum) all made the trip to start in the mid-season showcase. Closer Derrick Smith (Erskine) just barely missed the cut, although he was superb all season.
First Blowfish Player to the Majors
On July 26th, Columbia Blowfish alum Michael Kohn (2006) made his Major League debut with the Los Angeles Angels. Kohn, a 13th round pick of the Angels in the 2008 Major League Draft started the top of the ninth inning against Boston. In the Blowfish inaugural season, Kohn had 21 hits. He had eight doubles and a homer. He also appeared on the mound twice that season.
After the Blowfish finished in last place in the CPL South Division in the first half, the odds of making the playoffs seemed like a distant dream. When they began the second half with an eight game losing streak, the team looked all but eliminated. But suddenly, something changed and the offense caught fire. After the eight game slide, the Blowfish went on to win 11 of their next 14 games and pulled to within a half game of the final wild card spot with just four games to play. Although Columbia went on a four game losing streak before ending the season with an extra innings thriller in Florence, the atmosphere at the Cap was electric as the fans rallied around their team during their playoff chase.
2010 was an up and down season for Columbia, but an exciting year indeed. The Blowfish finished with a final mark of 24-31. Although they finished three games behind Asheboro for the final wildcard spot in the playoffs, the team was in contention until the end, as they were just a game and a half back with three games to play. Historic Capital City Stadium was abuzz all season with action, and the Blowfish are looking to build on this year as they head into next season.
2011 Season in Review
By: Jake Levy
One year after narrowly missing the Petitt Cup Playoffs the Blowfish saw fourteen players return for another season of baseball in Columbia as the corner of Assembly and Dreyfus lit up for the sixth summer of Coastal Plain League action in the Capital City. One of those returning players was Brison Celek. He drove in 34 runs in 2011 to become the Blowfish all-time RBI leader with 63 driven in during his two seasons with the club. It was a new face, however, freshman Zack Smith, who stole the show.
Smith had been a dominant force in his freshman year for Erskine College. He earned Conference Carolinas' Freshman of the Year honors and was voted second team All-Conference for his .412 batting average with 9 home runs and 42 driven in for the Division II Flying Fleet.
The only thing hotter than the Smith during the summer season was the Columbia heat. The Lexington native set several team records including batting average (.354), single-season RBIs (46) and he set the career home run record for the team in just one year by crushing 11 deep balls. Smith wasted no time in showing the Blowfish what he could do. He started the season with a nine game hitting streak and earning CPL Player of the Week honors for the first week of the season. Smith's hot start helped the team win three of their first four games, including a walk-off victory on U.S. Military Appreciation Night.
The annual tribute to the men and women who serve our country was held June 4, 2011 with 5,127 fans, mostly troops from Fort Jackson, making their way to Capital City Stadium for a night of Coastal Plain League baseball. The troops were serenaded by the patriotic music of Eric Horner before the game and they enthusiastically cheered for the Blowfish all night as they saw Will Callaway single home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Wilmington Sharks. The heroics were followed by a rousing fireworks display as the night aimed to show our military personnel how much every civilian appreciates the hard work and sacrifice they make to keep the United States safe.
While the bats helped the Blowfish start hot, the team could not hold up on the defensive side of the ball. Military Night was one of only two games the Blowfish would not commit an error in the first half of the season; including a streak of 23 consecutive games committing at least one error. The Blowfish record suffered as they finished the First Half in the cellar of the South Division with a 9-19 record. Errors continued to be a problem in the second half as the Blowfish finished the season with 124 errors, most in the league, and the league's lowest fielding percentage.
The Blowfish opened the Second Half of the season with fireworks… literally. The Blowfish hosted three nights of post-game fireworks to celebrate Independence Weekend at Capital City Stadium. There were big crowds on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday July 4 but the biggest crowd came for the game that didn't count in the Coastal Plain League standings.
The Blowfish spent July 3 hosting some former members of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team. Catcher Kyle Enders of the 2010 College World Series Championship team and utility man Robert Beary and pitcher Jose Mata of both of the back-to-back champion teams highlighted the U.S.C. Alumni roster for the fifth annual Gamefish Cup. All three were honored before the game by throwing out the ceremonial first pitches along with Brian Buscher. Buscher was an All-American for the Gamecocks before making a major league stint with the Minnesota Twins. He has since returned to Columbia and served as a bench coach for the Championship teams. They were greeted with a standing ovation from the 5,327 fans packed in the seats of Capital City Stadium before the Blowfish defeated the Alumni squad 7-5 to retain the Gamefish Cup. It was the fourth straight time the Blowfish have defeated the Alumni it gave the Blowfish some bragging rights and a 4-1 series edge.
Trey Dyson managed the Alumni and the team also featured former greats Kip Bauknight and Drew Meyer. During the game Gamecock head coach Ray Tanner addressed the crowd. He got undoubtedly the loudest cheer of the night as he celebrated being named the National Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year. The night highlighted a great Independence Weekend as families celebrated the holiday weekend with two of Blowfish owner Bill Shanahan's favorite American traditions: fireworks and baseball.
The weekend was also an opportunity to help raise awareness for the 9/11 First Responders Memorial. Fans were given an opportunity to go on field after each game and see two steel beams from the World Trade Center donated to the memorial and the chairman of the memorial Dan Hennigan addressed the crowd each night. Their presence added to the already patriotic atmosphere throughout the ballpark.
The Blowfish started the second half of the season competing for the second half South division crown but their plans for the post season were derailed when they went winless on a four game road trip, part of a five game losing streak. It was the second longest losing streak of the season for Columbia and every loss came against division opponents; creating a hole the Blowfish could never climb out of
The Columbia Blowfish are a proud member of the Coastal Plain League, the nation's hottest summer collegiate baseball league. Celebrating its 15th season in 2011, the CPL features 15 teams playing in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The CPL gives college players the chance to refine their skills with the use of wooden bats. Players are housed with local host families for the summer and past experiences have been very positive for both players and hosts. Furthermore, the CPL has had over 930 alumni drafted and 45 alums make their Major League debut thus far. For more information on the Coastal Plain League, please visit the league website at http://www.coastalplain.com.
There were still plenty of bright spots for the Blowfish on the season. Zack Smith continued his hot hitting to finish in the Top Five in eight offensive categories in the Coastal Plain League, including setting the League record for total bases with 127. He broke the previous record of 121 held by Jason Dubois (Rocky Mount, 1998) and Kevin Mahoney (Forest City, 2008) on Thursday July 28 with an RBI single in the first inning of a game in Florence, South Carolina.
His performance earned him All-Star honors. He participated in the CPL All-Star Home Run Derby on July 17, hitting one home run with a wooden bat. Then on July 18 he was one of three Blowfish to participate in the All-Star Game. Joe Jackson got the nod as the starting catcher for the American team and second baseman Chase Vergason also took the field as an All-Star for the two-day event held in Fayetteville, North Carolina. All three Blowfish played for the American team, who lost 3-2 on a two-run home run in the top of the ninth by Zach Stephens of the Wilmington Sharks.
Some of the Blowfish biggest accomplishments came off the field. The Blowfish saw one member of the team, Ross Gerdeman, leave Columbia in June because he had been drafted in round 35 of the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Gerdeman was joined by seven former players, including Gamecock Scott Wingo, to represent the Blowfish in this year's draft. The Blowfish tied for the fourth highest total of alumni from all CPL teams to be drafted. Mathew Williams, John Black, Blake Forslund, Mathew Leeds, Keegan Linza, and Jon Webb rounded out the Blowfish alumni drafted in 2011.
The Blowfish also reached out to the community. Before the season even started Blowfish players and staff went to local Columbia elementary schools to implement the 2011 Blowfish Reading Program. Students could earn great Blowfish prizes, including free tickets, just for reading books. Those students who read at least three books were honored on field at Capital City Stadium before various home games. Once the school year was over players made their way to local libraries throughout the summer to read to children and continue to promote reading for the Columbia youth.
That wasn't all the Blowfish did for the community. The Blowfish teamed with Palmetto Health to implement four "Good Seats for Good Samaritans" nights at Capital City Stadium. Fans who brought designated items on those nights received discounts on admission as part of the Blowfish efforts to encourage charity and helping the Columbia community.
Columbia Blowfish 2012 Season Review--CPL CHAMPIONS
Columbia Blowfish Media Intern
COLUMBIA, S.C.- The Columbia Blowfish came into the 2012 season after six challenging seasons in the Coastal Plain League. Enter "Team Kemosabe". Blowfish President Bill Shanahan enlisted the USC Sports Management program to help develop the first ever In House/Collegiate Scouting Department in the Nation. (Read Story Here). After bringing in a new coaching staff and rallying together as a team the Blowfish found themselves on top as the season ended. For the first time in team history they made their way through the playoffs and into the Petitt Cup Championship Series and they won.
The Blowfish found themselves in need of a new coaching staff after the 2011 season and they did not have to look far to find a replacement. The Blowfish called on former University of South Carolina and major league infielder Brian Buscher to be the head coach in 2012. Buscher was an All-American for the Gamecocks in 2003 and was on the team that made back to back trips to Omaha for the College World Series in 2002 and 2003. Buscher also spent several seasons playing in the Majors for the Minnesota Twins. Jon Coutlangus another former South Carolina standout was named assistant/pitching coach for the Blowfish. Coutlangus spent time with both the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks during his major league career.
With a new coaching staff and a new batch of players the Blowfish were ready to make noise in the Coastal Plain League. The Blowfish got off to an extremely streaky start winning their first three games then falling in their next five. The Blowfish then caught fire going 11-1 in their next twelve games. The Blowfish found themselves in an unfamiliar place, in contention for a first half division crown. The Blowfish would finish the first half with a 17-11 record finishing in a tie for second place.
During that first half run the Blowfish again had their annual Fort Jackson Appreciation night. More then 3,000 troops from Fort Jackson were on hand to watch the Blowfish take on the Gastonia Grizzlies. The crowd of 5,138 saw the Blowfish continue their winning ways en route to 2-1 victory. The night featured several Veterans being honored and ended with the first fireworks show of the season.
Before the second half of the Coastal Plain League season could get underway the Blowfish had to take part in another annual game, the University of South Carolina Alumni game. The Blowfish and Alumni battled for seven innings in hopes of taking home the GameFish Cup. In front of a packed Capital City Stadium and South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner the USC Alumni topped the Blowfish 11-5 behind an eight run seventh inning. The win was the first for the Alumni in the series in four years. The Alumni team included several former USC stars including the Blowfish coaches, Brian Buscher and Jon Coutlangus. The game was also featured as the first night of Independence fireworks.
The Independence Fireworks continued through July third and fourth as the Blowfish hosted the Martinsville Mustangs and Florence RedWolves. On July fourth the Blowfish played in front of what would be one of the biggest crowds of the season at Historic Capital City Stadium. In front of more than 5,000 fans the Blowfish fell to the Florence RedWolves 12-2. But, even though the result on the field was not what the fans had hoped for the fireworks display after the game was what everyone really wanted to see.
The Blowfish again sent several members to the Coastal Plain League All-Star Game in 2012. Pitcher Zack Russell-Myers and catcher Joshua Miller were named starters for the National All-Stars and infielder Graham Saiko was named starter at shortstop for the American All-Stars. Gabe Loweree was also named to the American All-Star team as a reserve outfielder. The National All-Stars came out on top 4-1. Zack Russell-Myers pitched a scoreless frame, striking out one and Joshua Miller hit an RBI single.
The second half would end up being a historic one for the Blowfish. In an up and down second half the Blowfish found themselves again in a race for the west division crown. This time the Blowfish would capitalize and finish tied for first with the Martinsville Mustangs. The Mustangs owned the tiebreaker earning the automatic bid to the 2012 Petitt Cup Playoffs, but with a division crown in hand the Blowfish made their way into the playoffs as an at-large team. Winning a division crown would not be the end of the history making for the Blowfish.
The Blowfish began the Petitt Cup Playoffs as the number four overall seed and their first round opponent was the fifth seeded Wilmington Sharks. In game one the Blowfish topped the Sharks 7-5 and then returned home to Capital City Stadium for game two of the best of three series. The Blowfish again made history with a 5-3 win to advance to the second round of the Petitt Cup Playoffs for the first time in team history.
In round two the Blowfish would face the top seeded Edenton Steamers with the winner advancing to the Petitt Cup Championship series. Game one was in front of a great crowd at Capital City Stadium. The Blowfish took a 1-0 lead in the series with an 8-4 win over the top seeded Steamers. The Blowfish then made the long trip to Edenton, North Carolina for game two of the series and would again make history. Behind several homeruns and great pitching the Blowfish advanced to the Petitt Cup Championship with a 5-1 win over the Steamers.
By advancing to the Petitt Cup Championship the Blowfish had already made history but they were not done. The Blowfish would face the second seeded SwampDogs of Fayetteville in the best of three series. The Blowfish hosted game one of the series but could not get the bats going en route to a 4-2 loss, their first loss of the postseason. With their championship hopes on the line the Blowfish then made their way to Fayetteville for game two. The Blowfish dominated from the started to tie the series at one with a 7-3 victory. With the series tied at one the Blowfish and SwampDogs would again meet in Fayetteville for the decisive game three. The Blowfish again dominated the contest, winning 8-3, to capture their first ever Petitt Cup Championship.
In a year where history was made in the midlands the Blowfish announced that even with the land where Capital City Stadium sits being sold to build a department store that baseball would stay in the midlands. Not only would it stay in the area but there will indeed be one final season at Historic Capital City Stadium in 2013 as the Blowfish try to win back to back Petitt Cup Championships.