Before Greeneville manager Lamarr Rogers got to the ballpark on Tuesday, he had a good feeling about his team.
That feeling turned into an Appalachian League championship as the Rookie-level Astros rallied for an 8-7 victory at Princeton in the decisive game of the best-of-3 Finals.
"It was a crazy year, I'm just happy with how they stuck together," Rogers said. "The whole season, we had really leaned on our pitching and this is the first series our pitching really struggled, and our position players were able to come through with the bat and timely hits, so just a great all-around team effort."
After losing the series opener, 12-2, on Sunday, Greeneville was one out from being swept on Monday before rallying for a 10-8 triumph that forced a one-game showdown for the championship.
"Resiliency, that's all they've been. It's been like that from the original crew. That's the one thing that's been consistent. Although the players have changed, when our backs are up against the wall, we've responded," the first-year manager said. "Coming here to the ballpark [Tuesday], especially after last night, being down and coming back to win that ballgame, the kids were excited. They couldn't wait to get to the ballpark and they weren't nervous and they were able to do the things to get them on top."
The Rays erased an early three-run deficit and took a 6-5 lead into the sixth. But Arturo Michelena singled in the tying run, Rodrigo Ayarza followed with a go-ahead base hit and Michelena scored a valuable insurance run on a wild pitch. The rally made a winner of reliever Diogenes Almengo (2-0), who allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in two frames. Edgardo Sandoval yielded a run but struck out seven over the final four innings for his second save in as many games.
"[Princeton] put a lot of pressure on us to have to keep up, so they brought the best out of us. The thing that I liked about it for our kids, it showed them what they could potentially be," Rogers said. "A lot of these kids have a lot of talent and just don't necessarily trust it all the time. They were put into an arena where they were able to actually showcase it and come through. And for our development of these players, that is going to be a huge step forward."
As the players raced to the center of Hunnicutt Field to celebrate, Rogers held back in the dugout for a moment to shake his coaches' hands and soak it all in.
"I didn't share it with too many folks, but it was my wish that I could win my first championship on my daughter [Anya's] birthday. That would just be great," the skipper said. "So that's what I thought of, right then and there, before I ran onto the field: 'Wow, we won a championship on my daughter's 16th birthday.'"
Greeneville is one of six stateside Astros affiliates that reached the playoffs. The only one that didn't is in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
"The kids went crazy out there. You could tell the release of just a lot of development going through them. It finally all made sense to them, why we're certain ways and why we do certain things," Rogers said. "I think we're the first one in the playoffs and then, hopefully, the others will follow suit and then -- last but not least -- our big league team. It's definitely a great time to be in the Astros organization."