Savannah Sand Gnats: South Atlantic League Championship Series Preview

By Michael Lecolant

The Savannah Sand Gnats will square off against the Hagerstown Suns in the South Atlantic League Championship Series.  The best three of five series will commence Monday evening in Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium.  Games Three through Five, if necessary will be played in Savannah’s Grayson Stadium.

May 9, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Overall view of home plate and the field prior to the game between the St. Louis Cardinals against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Sand Gnats finished the 2013 regular season with an overall 77-61 record.  They qualified for the post-season by winning the SAL Southern Division first half title with a 43-26 record, 3.5 games over the Charleston RiverDogs, but dropped to 34-35 in the second half.  In the recently concluded first round of playoffs, Savannah defeated the Augusta GreenJackets in two straight games to reach this year’s finals.

The Hagerstown Suns ended the regular season with an overall 80-57 record.  They captured the Northern Division first half flag with a 38-29 record, which was  only one-half game better than the Hickory Crawdads.  They played even better in the second half, posting a 42-28 record, but finished second.  Hagerstown needed three games to short circuit the West Virginia Power and advance to face Savannah.

Hagerstown batters both scored, and averaged the most runs per game in the SAL, while the Savannah Sand Gnats pitchers averaged the least runs allowed.  With a 3.15 mark, the Sand Gnats finished the season with the circuit’s second lowest team   ERA.  At 3.44, the Hagerstown Suns rated fifth in the league.  Savannah’s staff issued the least amount of walks and owned the league’s best WHiP, while the Suns ranked fourth in WHiP.

Offensively, the Suns finished with the second highest team batting average, while Savannah was a distant eleventh in the league.  Both teams rate near the bottom in home runs – Hagerstown is twelfth, while Savannah follows at number thirteen.  The Gnats rated dead last in stolen bases, while the Suns are middle of the pack theft artists.  Both teams strike out excessively, yet Savannah and Hagerstown finished number one and two, respectively in walks drawn.  The Suns also had the league’s highest team OBP while the Gnats ranked a close third.

Defensively, the Savannah Sand Gnats and Suns compare very evenly.  The Gnats owned the SAL’s second best fielding percentage, while the Suns ranked a close third.  With runners on base, the Gnats and Suns ranked second and third best in the league at throwing would be base-stealers out.  And they committed the second and third least errors as well.

The Sand Gnats did not qualify for the post-season last year.  They finished with an overall 62-74 record.  In 2011 however, they reached the SAL Finals after clinching a first half division flag.  They finished the season 79-60, but fell to the Greensboro Grasshoppers in five games.  The year before that, Savannah captured a first half division flag with a 42-28 record.  They finished with an overall 75-64 record, but fell to the Greenville Drive in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.  In Savannah’s first year of affiliation with the Mets in 2007, they were down right terrible – a last place club for both halves of the season, with a 41-94 overall record.  For their first three seasons of affiliation through the 2009 season, Savannah failed to make the playoffs.  They will now play in their second SAL championship series in three years.

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