Savannah, Ga.- Three Savannah Sand Gnats players have been added late to the South Atlantic League All-Star team, joining the Gnats manager Luis Rojas and his seven players already selected to the Southern Division team.
Savannah, Ga., native John Michael Gant will head to his second career all-star game after a stellar first half with the Gnats. The 21-year-old now leads SAL starters with a 2.21 ERA and a 7-2 record. Gant topped off his first-half resume with a complete game shutout during Thursday's doubleheader against the GreenJackets. Gant was drafted by the New York Mets in the 21st round back in 2011 out of Wiregrass Ranch High School in Florida.
"We are very fortunate to have Gant on our staff and fortunate having the league acknowledge his accomplishments," said Sand Gnats pitching coach Marc Valdes. "He's put in the practice, and the effort has paid off," he continued.
Second baseman L.J. Mazzilli will also join his teammates in Hickory thanks to a dominant first half at the plate. The 23-year-old leads the Gnats in RBIs (45) and HRs (7), and boasts a .294 batting average through 65 games. Mazzilli was drafted by the Mets in the 4th round in 2013 out of the University of Connecticut. This is his second career all-star selection. L.J. is the son of former Mets big leaguer Lee Mazzilli.
First year hitting coach Valentino Pascucci has worked with Mazzilli to refine his approach at the plate, helping the second baseman become the best run producer on the First-Half Champion Sand Gnats.
"This guy's put in hard work. He comes to the ballpark ready to practice all day," Valdes said. He admits that Mazzilli was a "no-brainer," for the all-star nod.
Reliever Tim Peterson will also join the all-star squad after a successful first-half on the mound. The 2012 20th round pick out of the University of Kentucky has racked up a 3-0 record with a 2.05 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 19 appearances. Opponents are batting just .151 against the righty.
His ability to throw strikes, placing the ball exactly where he needs to has led to his success thus far. "He's been Picasso out there- just painting," Valdes said. "He's keeping the ball below the knees and he's throwing to both sides of the plate," the pitching coach continued.
The South Atlantic League All-Star Game will be held on Tuesday, June 17, at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, N.C., the home of the Hickory Crawdads.