Savannah, GA - Down to their final strike, the Augusta GreenJackets scored three times in the ninth inning to earn their first win of the season by a 6-5 score over the Savannah Sand Gnats on Friday night.
With runners at second and third and two outs in the ninth inning, Jose Cuevas singled to left on a 2-2 pitch from Estarlin Morel (0-1) to score a pair of runs and tie the game at five apiece. The next hitter, Ben Thomas, doubled into the left field corner to score Cuevas and give the GreenJackets the lead. Cody Hall (1-0) followed his scoreless eighth inning by retiring three of the four hitters he faced in the ninth to earn the first GreenJackets victory of the season.
Augusta fell behind by four runs after five innings as Savannah struck first with a run scoring on a wild pitch. The Sand Gnats added to the lead in the fifth when they loaded the bases with two outs for Aderlin Rodriguez, who drove the first pitch he saw into right-center for a bases-clearing, three-run double to put Savannah up 4-0.
The GreenJackets began to rally in the sixth, getting a pair of runs on Cuevas's RBI groundout and a Thomas RBI single. Augusta pulled to within one in the seventh on Shawn Payne's RBI single and loaded the bases with one out and down a run. Back-to-back strikeouts killed the Augusta rally and their attempts to gain the lead were further thwarted by a Savannah insurance run in the bottom of the eighth that put the Gnats up 5-3.
In the ninth, Joe Staley drew a walk ahead of Payne's second hit of the game to put two men on base for the GreenJackets. After both men were bunted into scoring position, Kelby Tomlinson grounded out to bring Cuevas to the plate - setting the stage for his game-tying hit.
Augusta starter Chris Marlowe looked sharp in his season debut, allowing just an unearned run on two hits and a pair of walks while striking out three. The ninth inning GreenJacket heroics took a win away from Savannah's Rafael Montero, who allowed two runs on five hits in his season debut and was in line for the win until the Sand Gnats lost the lead.
With the series evened at a game apiece, the GreenJackets and Sand Gnats will both turn to lefties on Saturday night. Adalberto Mejia takes the ball for Augusta and will face Alex Panteliodis. First pitch from Savannah comes at 6:05 p.m. with radio pregame coverage beginning at 5:50 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.