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Rallies the theme of 'Hoppers' season
11/01/2011 10:00 AM ET
Yogi Berra would have had a field day describing the Grasshoppers' season.

Sitting eight games back on Aug. 8 with a 20-24 record, Greensboro won 20 of its final 26 games, claiming the South Atlantic League North Division second-half title on the last day of the season.

The Grasshoppers took it a step further, taking home the league crown against Savannah. Their playoff run was full of the things that made Greensboro a MiLBY winner for Best Class A Team.

"It feels awesome," Christian Yelich said of the season. "I don't even know how someone can describe something like that. Baseball is such a hard game and to close out a season like that ... a lot of guys played hard. We got good starting pitching, we swung the bats well and thing started going our way. No one ever said quit until the last at-bat. That was a special season."

Yelich, the Marlins' 2010 first-rounder, was one of the team's biggest bats down the stretch. The California native batted .354 with 10 of his 15 homers in the second half.

"He was a mainstay in the three-hole," Greensboro manager Andy Haines said after the season finale in Kannapolis. "We ask a lot of him, for a young player to experience a first full season they have to fight to get to the finish line. He just kept getting better every day. He has a lot of qualities that are beneficial to him. All of those things came out late in the season and showed up every day."

Yelich's hot bat was fully on display in the final game of the season, when he homered and scored twice as Greensboro completed its improbable second half with a 9-6 victory over Hickory. The win allowed the Grasshoppers to clinch a South Atlantic League North Division title.

"We went into Kannapolis and won four out of five there," the South Atlantic League All-Star said. "We knew we were going to have to play really well. It was an awesome feeling, going into that series we controlled our own destiny. We went out there and did it, we blew a three-run lead and we came back and scored three runs in the 10th which is surprising and not surprising at the same time. Nothing seemed to faze that team. That celebration made it all worth it."

Yelich, who provided a signature postseason moment with a walk-off homer in Game 1 of the semifinals against Hickory, felt the team really started to come together down the stretch, and the results bore that out.

"I think we got really good starting pitching, everyone hit well and we started to play really well together," he said. "It was almost like it wasn't a team. it was almost like a family. We had good team chemistry."

Even in the playoffs, the Grasshoppers found ways to win with their backs to the wall. After taking the semifinal series against the Crawdads, Greensboro was down to its final strike against Savannah in the South Atlantic League Finals. Noah Perrio brought home Ryan Fisher with a two-out single in the ninth inning, and two innings later, Fisher drove in the go-ahead run.

Game 5 was almost anticlimactic in a sense, with Greensboro scoring five times in the fourth to claim its first title since 1982, back when the team was known as the Hornets. Yelich, who was 2-for-5 in the final game, had little difficulty in expressing his feelings toward the season.

"It was the most unbelievable baseball season I've ever had," Yelich said. "It was a great group of guys, it was a great run. Something like that is so special, you never know how many times you'll have a chance to do that. Comeback wins, being down 2-1 being down to the last strike, stuff like that is unbelievable. Having that never-say-die attitude helped us win and made it a special season."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.