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Gnats Clinch First Half Championship!06/14/2011 10:55 PM ET
SAVANNAH, GA - The Savannah Sand Gnats clinched their second-straight First-Half Southern Division Championship with a 2-1 win over the Rome Braves at Historic Grayson Stadium Tuesday night. Savannah, the 2010 First-Half Champion, has now won back-to-back First-Half titles.
"I'm really speechless right now. It's a really good feeling," said Sand Gnats' manager Ryan Ellis after the game. "I'm just proud of everybody here, all the guys and the coaching staff. They've done tremendous job."
The Gnats have won 19 of their last 23 games and are 31-12 since slipping to 7-14 after a loss in Delmarva on April 29. Ellis credited a team meeting at that point with turning around the Gnats' season, "We had a nice little heart-to-heart in Delmarva," the skipper said. "I told the guys we needed everybody to step up and do their jobs and you see how the guys responded since then, so it's been outstanding."
The Gnats (38-26) have won seven games in a row, their longest winning streak as a Mets' affiliate, a relationship that began with the 2007 baseball season.
The Gnats scored their only two runs Tuesday in the bottom of the second inning. LF Rafael Fernandez and 3B Aderlin Rodriguez singled to begin the inning. With one out, C Albert Cordero ground a single through the left side, bringing home Fernandez with the game's first run and advancing Rodriguez to second. DH Luis Nieves followed by bouncing a ball back to Rome starter Aaron Northcraft, who threw to second base in an attempt to start a double play. However, the relay to first was too slow to retire the speedy Nieves while Rodriguez, who was running hard from second on the play, scored standing up to give the Gnats a 2-0 lead.
Savannah starter Gonzalez Germen took a shutout into the sixth inning, and finished seven innings, yielding just one run on six hits for his fifth win of the year. The Braves (25-40) scored their only run on a home run from RF Robert Hefflinger leading off the sixth inning.
The Gnats forced the Braves to strand the tying run twice in the game's final two innings. With the score 2-1, Braves' catcher Christian Bethancourt led off the eighth inning with single to right, chasing Germen from the game in favor of Gnats' closer Josh Edgin. After a sacrifice bunt, Edgin struck out two straight hitters to strand Bethancourt at second with the tying run. Edgin allowed a leadoff single in the ninth to Rome DH Evan Gattis, who advanced to third with two outs after a sacrifice bunt and dribbler back to the pitcher. With the tying run at third, and two down, Edgin induced a groundout up the middle from pinch-hitter David Rohm to sure-handed shortstop Wilfredo Tovar to seal the win and the first-half title. Edgin has converted 12 straight save opportunities and has not allowed an earned run since April 26, a span of 18 appearances.
By winning the first half, the Gnats will have home field advantage in the best-of-three Southern Division Championship Series which will begin at the home of the Second Half Champion on Wednesday, September 7 and then return to Savannah on Friday, September 9 for game two and, if necessary, game three on Saturday, September 10.
The Gnats will look for their eighth win in a row, when they send RHP Greg Peavey (6-2, 3.13) to the mound Wednesday in the conclusion of the seven-game home stand against LHP Carlos Perez (3-6, 5.53) for Rome. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm and gates open at 6 pm. The pre-game show on News/Talk 630 and sandgnats.com begins at 6:50 pm.