What a difference a week can make.
On June 5, Class A Greensboro lost to Hagerstown to fall to 34-26, seven games behind the first-place Suns, who were already 22 games over .500. Fast-forward 10 games and 10 days and the Grasshoppers celebrated an unlikely first-half title.
Domingo German allowed an unearned run over seven innings and Justin Bohn and J.T. Riddle homered as the Grasshoppers beat Kannapolis, 7-1, to clinch the South Atlantic League Northern Division crown.
The victory was the 10th straight for the Marlins affiliate, which rode a hot streak at just the right time to leapfrog Hagerstown, which entered Sunday having lost four in a row and seven of its last 10 games.
"Unbelievable," Greensboro manager Dave Berg said. "They played their hearts out, and to go on a 10-game winning streak and for Hagerstown to lose games is unbelievable. I'm in a fog right now. It was remarkable. We took it game by game and the next thing you know, we're here."
The Grasshoppers sent German (7-2) to the mound, knowing a win would wrap up the division, regardless of the outcome of the Suns' tilt with Greenville later in the afternoon.
The 21-year-old right-hander did not disappoint, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out six. He yielded the unearned run in the second, but Riddle smacked his third homer of the season to tie the game in the sixth and Bohn capped a six-run seventh with a three-run shot.
"[German] has been great all year and he continued to pitch well today. He gave us seven good innings," Berg said.
The Grasshoppers rank second in the league with a 3.08 team ERA and are led by German, who leads the SAL with a 2.10 ERA, is tied for first in wins and ranks fourth with 71 strikeouts. Ryan Newell (2.46) and Matt Milroy (2.56) are seventh and eighth in ERA, respectively.
Greensboro is second on the circuit with a .283 team batting average. Chad Wallach ranks second in the league with a .431 on-base percentage, Felix Munoz is tied for third with 47 RBIs and Yefri Perez is fourth with 20 stolen bases.
"The guys just played together as a team and they just wanted it. They competed every day," Berg said. "It is a good group of guys and they had fun. I've never seen 25 guys get along so well.
"The pitching staff as a whole has been very consistent and they have given us a lot of innings and gone deep into games to save our bullpen. [Offensively], it's everybody. It seems like if one guy starts to struggle, somebody else picks it up. Everybody has been contributed."
West Michigan 4, South Bend 1
In a winner-take-all contest, the Whitecaps shut down the Silver Hawks to wrap up the first-half Eastern Division crown.
South Bend took a 1-0 lead in the second on Chuck Taylor's sacrifice fly, but West Michigan collected four straight hits to begin the sixth before Jose Zambrano delivered a two-run single. Box score