The Savannah Sand Gnats, who entered Tuesday’s action leading the Southern Division, were looking to improve upon their one game lead over the Charleston RiverDogs, and 2.5 game lead over their current opponents, the Ashville Tourists. The incoming Tourists had no intention of letting that become an easy endeavour. So to open this series with slim first place implications, the Ashville club engaged Savannah in a classic pitcher’s duel.
Logan Taylor climbed the hill for game one at Grayson Stadium, opposed by Ashville’s Matt Flemer. Both starters traded zeros over the first four innings. Matt Flemer allowed the Gnats two hits, walked one and struck out two. Logan Taylor walked the second batter of the game, then proceeded to retire the next eleven, while collecting five strikeouts along the way.
Left fielder and clean-up hitter, Francisco Sosa broke up Logan’s early bid for a no hitter in the top of the fifth, but was then thrown out by catcher Kevin Plawecki in a failed attempt to steal second. After picking up his sixth strikeout, Logan Taylor surrendered two more singles, however, the Tourists were unable convert them into runs. After allowing a single to Phillip Evans back in the third inning, Ashville’s Matt Flemer retired his next seven batters faced. And so, both starting pitchers ended the fifth with their respective shutouts in tact.
Logan Taylor pitched through a one-out bases loaded jam in the top half of the sixth, by striking out Francisco Sosa and inducing first baseman Derek Jones into a ground ball force out play at second. Ashville’s Matt Flemer retired the Sand Gnats in order yet again in the bottom half of the frame.
Sand Gnats manager Luis Rojas decided to relieve Logan Taylor for the seventh, bringing in Paul Sewald to face the bottom half of the Tourists line-up. After surrendering a lead-off single to Jason Stolz, Sewald induced the Tourists into three consecutive ground ball outs. In the bottom of the seventh, Matt Flemer picked up where he left off, retiring the Sand Gnats in order for a fourth consecutive inning.
In the top of the eighth, Paul Sewald struck out the side. After Matt Flemer struck out his first two batters in the bottom of the eighth, Ashville’s manager decided he’d had enough, summoning Brook Hart from the bullpen, who secured out number three.
Both starting pitchers respectively tossed stellar games. Both left throwing shut-out baseball, and unfortunately both departed the game with a no-decision. In truth, either one of these young men deserved to win this evening. Logan Taylor exited the game after six full innings pitched, allowed no runs on four hits, walked three batters and struck out six. Matt Flemer pitched 7.2 impressive innings, allowing just two hits, one walk, while striking out six.
Into the ninth Savannah went with Paul Sewald still on the mound. With one out, he hit Derek Jones with a pitch, but otherwise caused no damage to the score. For Savannah, Cole Frenzel led off last licks with a single off Brook Hart, and was substituted for, by pinch-runner Yucary De La Cruz. Cruz stood on third base with two outs, but Brandon Nimmo bounced out third to first, ending the threat and regulation time – free baseball for the folks at Grayson Stadium.
Bret Mitchell relieved Paul Sewald for the tenth inning. Sewald was super, pitching three full innings, allowing no runs on one hit. He walked no batters and struck out four. Bret Mitchell pitched a scoreless tenth. For the Gnats, Kevin Plawecki bounced into a double play erasing a lead-off single by Jayce Boyd. Brook Hart then retired Stefan Sabol to close out the tenth. Brook Hart was solid in 2.1 innings of work, allowing one hit, and one walk.
In the eleventh, Bret Mitchell retired Ashville in order, striking out the last two batters. Reliever Patrick Johnson assumed pitching duties for the Tourists in the bottom half of the frame. Savannah greeted him with singles by Eudy Pina and Phillip Evans. A walk issued to Maikis De La Cruz then loaded the bases with two outs. Up came Brandon Nimmo with a second opportunity to drive a runner home from third. Instead, he too drew a walk off Patrick Johnson, as second baseman Jeff Reynolds trotted home with the game’s winning run. With two innings pitched, allowing a hit and striking out two, Bret Mitchell earned the victory in relief – his second.
The Sand Gnats improved to a South Atlantic League best 39-26 record (.594) on the season. They knocked the Ashville Tourists into fourth place, 3.5 games back. Charleston won as well, and so the Sand Gnats remain a game better than the second place RiverDogs, as the Rome Braves slipped into third. Savannah’s 21-11 home record also tops the circuit.