Savannah, GA - Charley Thurber's ninth-inning chopper over a drawn-in infield gave the Savannah Sand Gnats the 3-2 win on Opening Night in Savannah against the Augusta GreenJackets.
The GreenJackets fought all night long, taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on Michael Mergenthaler's sacrifice fly. Savannah took the lead off a tiring Clayton Blackburn in the fifth inning, putting runners at first and third with one out. Gregory Pron's groundball to first resulted in an out at second, but Pron beat the relay throw to stay out of a double play and allow the tying run to score, evening things at one. After a wild pitch moved Pron to second, Thurber singled to give the Gnats a 2-1 edge.
Savannah didn't lead long though as the GreenJackets tied the game with a two-out sixth inning rally. After Aderlin Rodriguez's error kept the inning alive, a walk put Elliot Blair in position to score on Eric Sim's bloop single to center that tied things at two.
In the ninth, Mergenthaler had trouble playing Luis Nieves's leadoff fly ball, resulting in Nieves reaching third as the winning run with no one out. Back-to-back intentional walks loaded the bases for Thurber who delivered the game-winning hit.
Blackburn allowed two runs on four hits in 4.2 innings in his GreenJackets debut, striking out six. His counterpart - Logan Verrett - allowed only an unearned run on three hits in five innings, striking out four. Carlos Vazquez (1-0) retired all seven hitters he faced - striking out five - to get the win while Kevin Couture (0-1) got the tough-luck loss for the GreenJackets in the opener.
Friday night will see the season debuts of Chris Marlowe and Rafael Montero for the GreenJackets and Sand Gnats respectively. First pitch from Savannah comes at 7:05 p.m. with radio pregame coverage beginning at 6:50 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1340 AM and online at www.greenjacketsbaseball.com.
The GreenJackets return home for their home opener next Thursday at 7:35 p.m. against the Sand Gnats. Single-game tickets for any GreenJackets home game are currently available by calling the GreenJackets front office at 706-922-WINS and online at www.greenjacketsbaseball.com.