BOWLING GREEN, Ky. ― Blake Sabol's sharp single up the middle drove home Lolo Sanchez with the tie-breaking run in the seventh inning, and four Greensboro pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts, lifting the Grasshoppers to a 6-5 victory over the top-seeded Hot Rods in Game 3 of the High-A East
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. ― Blake Sabol's sharp single up the middle drove home Lolo Sanchez with the tie-breaking run in the seventh inning, and four Greensboro pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts, lifting the Grasshoppers to a 6-5 victory over the top-seeded Hot Rods in Game 3 of the High-A East Championship series Sunday night at Bowling Green Ballpark.
The Hoppers lead the best-of-five series 2-1 and are one victory away from a league championship.
Game 4 is Monday at 7:30 p.m. EST, with Game 5 (if necessary) set for Tuesday.
Sabol went 2-for-4 with a walk and hit clutch RBI. Cleanup hitter Sanchez, meanwhile, was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run.
Sanchez's two-run shot in the third inning was one of three Hoppers homers in the game.
Prized prospect Nick Gonzales, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft, hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Andres Alvarez hit a one-out solo shot to tie the score 5-5 in the sixth inning.
After losing a ninth-inning lead in Game 1, the Hoppers have now won back-to-back games against the best team in the 12-team league all season.
"We want to bring a championship back here," Hoppers manager Kieran Mattison said. "We're excited to go out there (to Bowling Green) and play, because we believe in what we can do."
Right-hander J.C. Flowers started the game for Greensboro, and he struck out 10 in five innings. He left the game trailing 5-4.
But the bullpen was dominant, three relievers facing just two batters over the minimum the rest of the way.
Grant Ford pitched a scoreless sixth to pick up the win, striking out one.
Enmanuel Mejia gave up a single and struck out five in two scoreless innings.
Hard-throwing Colin Selby walked the lead-off hitter in the ninth, then struck out the next the batters to earn the save.
Bowling Green's pitchers struck out 17 in the game, but they walked eight batters.
Hoppers third baseman Jared Triolo drew three of those walks and scored a run, and lead-off hitter Liover Peguero was 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.
"This is a special group, man. It really is," Mattison said. "And I'll always remember this year and the things that go on behind the scenes: the camaraderie and the relationships we've built. It's a family, man, and we've been on a fun ride together."
One more victory, and the ride ends in a title.
In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.