Savannah Sand Gnats Capture South Atlantic League Championship In Four Games

By Michael Lecolant

Pop the champagne for some players and pass the milk to others, as congratulations are in order.  The Savannah Sand Gnats have captured the 2013 South Atlantic League championship, dimming the Hagerstown Suns three games to one.  A Friday the 13th home crowd at Grayson Stadium saw their team take a 2-0 lead after four innings, and never look back.  BOXSCORE

Starting pitcher Steven Matz, and a bullpen trio of Paul Sewald, Jeurys Familia and Beck Wheeler ensured victory.  Matz pitched 5.2 innings in earning his second win of the playoffs.  He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out nine batters before getting relieved by Paul Sewald with two outs in the seventh.  Jeurys Familia struck out two batters in the eighth, and Beck Wheeler closed the deal with two strikeouts in the ninth inning for the save.  Savannah’s starting pitchers were strong throughout the playoffs, but their bullpen was even stronger.

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

Sand Gnats pitching held the Suns to six hits.  Ironically, Hagerstown pitching limited Savannah to just two.  Dakota Bacus started for the Suns, and pitched four innings, allowed two earned runs on two hits, and fanned four.  But in the fourth inning, he walked the bases loaded and Stefan Sabol presented him with the consequences.  A double to left field drove home Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera with the game’s only two runs scored.  Brandon Nimmo had Savannah’s only other hit.

The teams split the first two games played in Hagerstown’s Minicipal Stadium.  After dropping Game One, the Sand Gnats came roaring back to win three straight, the last two at home by a combined 14-2 score.  Benefiting from some timely hitting, the Sand Gnats are SAL champs for the first time as a Mets affiliate.  In fact, you would have to go back to 1996 in order to dig up their last championship trophy.  The Gnats have been a Mets affiliate since 2007, but between 1997 and 2009, they  failed to qualify for the post-season.

Savannah qualified for this year’s tournament by capturing the SAL Southern Division first half flag with a 43-28 record.  Overall, they ended the regular season with a 77-61 mark.  In the first round of this year’s post-season, the Sand Gnats dispatched the Augusta GreenJackets in two straight games to advance into the finals.

The Sand Gnats are managed by Luis Rojas, and their pitching coach is Sweet Music – Frank Viola, who was named Coach of the Year.  Starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa was named the SAL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.

Once again, congratulations to the Savannah Sand Gnats, the 2013 South Atlantic League champions.

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