Greenville, SC - The Greenville Drive's incredible 2017 season ended on a historic note on Friday night at Fluor Field, as they defeated the Kannapolis Intimidators 8-3 to clinch the first South Atlantic League Championship in franchise history.
With the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth, a five-run inning propelled the Drive to a lead they wouldn't relinquish, and a championship they won't forget.
Three consecutive singles by Bobby Dalbec, Ryan Scott and Mitchell Gunsolus loaded the bases with nobody out, and on Pedro Castellanos's slow roller to third base, Dalbec hustled all the way down the line and beat the throw home to put the Drive up 4-3. Jagger Rusconi's RBI single two batters later tacked on another run, and Brett Netzer capped his outstanding postseason with a ringing three-run double off the left-center wall to extend the lead.
Netzer finished the postseason with 12 hits in 28 at-bats, good for a league-high .429 average, and eight RBI.
The bullpen took over from there. Hunter Smith retired all seven batters he faced to get the win, and Juan Florentino finished the ninth inning with a strikeout to set off a massive championship celebration on the infield.
The Drive looked to be in the driver's seat after scoring three times in the bottom of the first. After singles by Netzer and Roldani Baldwin, Dalbec lined an RBI double to right to put Greenville on the board. Later in the frame, Tyler Hill's shallow popup to right field was dropped by the Kannapolis second baseman, and two runs came in to score.
Alex Call struck for the Intimidators in the third inning with a leadoff homer off Hildemaro Requena. The run was the first earned run allowed by Requena since August 9th.
Kannapolis scored twice more in the fourth to tie the game. Evan Skoug cranked a solo homer to left-center to shave the Drive lead to 3-2, and after a Joel Booker single and a passed ball, Call lined a single to center to score the tying run, but the Drive's big inning allowed them to pull away for the title.
Netzer was joined by Dalbec and Gunsolus with multi-hit games. Call led the Intimidators with three hits in the game, while Mitch Roman chipped in with two hits.
The Greenville Drive's record-setting 2017 season at Fluor Field is now history. With a South Atlantic League Championship, a new record with 79 single-season victories, and continued support from the best fans in professional baseball, this has been an unforgettable year in Downtown Greenville. The Drive would like to thank the players, coaches, fans, sponsors and media who helped make the 2017 season special.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.