Gabriel Ynoa couldn't guarantee a league championship for Savannah on Thursday no matter long he stayed on the mound, but it didn't keep him from trying to squeeze out every last pitch.
Ynoa tossed seven dominant innings, rehabbing Mets reliever Jeurys Familia worked a perfect frame and Jeff Reynolds went 3-for-3 with three RBIs to help the Class A Sand Gnats blank the Hagerstown Suns, 6-0, for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 South Atlantic League Championship Series.
"I was a little afraid to use all my pitches tonight, but I was attacking the zone and I felt great," Ynoa said through an interpreter, Savannah batting coach Joel Fuentes. "I was mixing in my fastball with a changeup all night."
Ynoa, the Sally League's Most Outstanding Pitcher, held the Suns to four hits and a walk while striking out five for his second postseason win. He retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced and did not allow a runner past first base in his last five innings.
When the Mets' No. 18 prospect found out his night was over, the news didn't sit well with him.
"I really wanted to go back out, but I understand pitch limits," Ynoa said. "The game's going on and I just wanted to finish my job."
That job conveniently fell into the hands of Familia, a former Sand Gnat who is working his way back to the Majors following elbow surgery in May. Familia struck out two in the eighth before Estarlin Morel worked around a hit in the ninth to push Hagerstown to the brink.
"I understand [Familia's] role and he's got a job to do, but at the same time, I felt great," Ynoa said. "I felt strong, like I could have come back out for the eighth and ninth."
The Sand Gnats can claim their first league crown since 1996 and their fourth in franchise history with a win Friday. Savannah took home titles as the Savannah Cardinals in 1993 and '94 and beat Delmarva for the crown two years later.
"In baseball, anything can happen, but we're ahead right now," Ynoa said. "We need to keep battling and fighting so we can finish it off."
Savannah scored twice in the second on a sacrifice fly by Stefan Sabol and an RBI single from Reynolds. Sabol and Reynolds knocked home two more runs in the fourth, and after Maikis De La Cruz hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Reynolds tacked on another RBI single in the sixth.
Kyle Turnbull (1-1) was charged with six runs on nine hits over five frames for Hagerstown.
"I was more comfortable after we scored two in the second inning, I knew I had some support," Ynoa said. "I was just focused on attacking the zone and it helped me adjust on the mound and just focus on throwing."
Ynoa built upon his playoff debut against Augusta, in which he allowed two runs on seven hits over 7 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the semifinals on Sept. 4. He turned in an outstanding season, finishing 15-4 with a 2.72 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 135 2/3 innings.
"I'm really proud of my season, it was great to finish strong and finish it the way I did," he said. "I thank God I was able to stay healthy and I thank the South Atlantic League for picking me for the award. I always play with my heart and just want to show everyone that I'm a big thrower."