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'Hoppers return to Sally League Finals09/07/2012 11:59 PM ET
By Zack Cox / Special to MLB.com
The road to the South Atlantic League championship will go through Greensboro again.
Ryan Goetz went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Austin Barnes blasted a two-run homer as the defending champion Grasshoppers defeated Hagerstown, 7-5, on Friday to return to the Sally League Finals.
Greensboro pulled out a 3-1 win in the opener of the best-of-3 semifinals without recording an RBI.
While small ball was the key to Wednesday's win -- the runs came on two errors and a wild pitch -- it was the longball that put the 'Hoppers up early in Game 2.
Barnes and catcher Wilfredo Gimenez launched two-run homers in the third inning, giving the Marlins' Class A affiliate a 4-0 cushion. Goetz doubled and was aboard for Barnes' bomb.
Greensboro totaled 24 hits in the two-game sweep.
"We've just been able to put the bat on the ball," Grasshoppers manager Dave Berg said. "We got two early home runs by Austin Barnes and Gimenez and were able to get their starter out of the game and make them go to their bullpen early on."
Hagerstown starter Wirkin Estevez was chased in the third, allowing four runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings.
After being held hitless for four innings by Greensboro starter Jake Esch, the Suns broke through in the fifth, plating four runs on RBI singles from Brett Newsome, J.R. Higley and Khayyan Norfork and a run-scoring groundout.
"We jumped out to a lead, then they came back with four in the fourth," Berg said. "They're a good team. We've played them a lot this season, we knew they weren't going down easy and we were in for a fight."
The Grasshoppers responded in the bottom of the inning against reliever Kylin Turnbull (0-1) as Goetz and Sally League batting champion Brent Keys came home on singles by Josh Adams and Matt Smith, respectively.
The Suns cut the deficit to one in the eighth when Cutter Dykstra's grounder skipped off shortstop Austin Nola's glove, allowing Billy Burns to score from second. But the game's two most productive hitters combined to produce an insurance run in the bottom of the frame, with Goetz scoring Barnes' sacrifice fly.
Nick Wittgren pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the series.
Greensboro awaits the winner of the other semifinal as Rome and Asheville will play a decisive third game on Saturday.
"We don't know who we'll be playing yet," Berg said, "but all four teams in these playoffs are good teams. No matter who we face, we just need to go out there and play our game."
Brad Mincey (1-0) faced just one batter in the fifth but picked up the win.
In other South Atlantic League action:
Asheville 6, Rome 2
Tyler Anderson, the Rockies' No. 6 prospect, recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed one run on four hits over six innings as the Tourists forced a one-game showdown with the Braves.
Asheville trailed, 1-0, until the bottom of the sixth, when Tyler Massey delivered an RBI double and Taylor Featherston followed with a two-run homer. Samuel Mende homered in the eighth to cap the scoring.
Starter Greg Ross took the loss for Rome, yielding three runs on seven hits over six innings. Box score