Bonfe, Sand Gnats walk off in 11th

Savannah takes 2-1 edge over Greensboro in Sally Finals

Joe Bonfe went 3-for-6 Thursday and is batting .333 in the playoffs. (Tony Farlow/

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | September 15, 2011 8:17 PM

Call it a faithful forecast or a lucky guess. Savannah's Joe Bonfe doesn't mind.

With runners on first and third and one out in the bottom of the 11th inning in Thursday's Game 3 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series, Bonfe turned to a teammate and said, "I'm getting up, bases loaded, two outs." He was sure of it.

Still one spot from even reaching the on-deck circle, Bonfe grabbed his helmet and bat and, sure enough, he didn't have to wait long. The Mets prospect stroked a walk-off single as the Class A Sand Gnats topped the Greensboro Grasshoppers, 4-3, to take a 2-1 advantage in the clubs' best-of-5 Finals series.

Facing Greensboro reliever Jordan Conley (0-1) in the final frame, Darrell Ceciliani walked, advanced to third on Wilfredo Tovar's single and scored three batters latter.

"Fortunately I got up," a relieved Bonfe said afterward. "I got fastball away, and it fell in for a hit."

The Sand Gnats were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position before Bonfe's big moment.

"It was big, the whole team was battling," said Bonfe, who also doubled and went 3-for-6 overall. "We couldn't get that timely hit, but we kept plugging away. We were bound to get it sometime."

Savannah is seeking its first championship since the club's first team in 1996 went all the way.

"We're all just pumped up right now," said Bonfe, New York's 21st-round draftee in 2009. "Hopefully we can take it into [Friday].

"[Manager] Ryan [Ellis] gave us a big speech after the game: 'Don't change anything -- just keep doing what you've been doing all season.'"

Grasshoppers starter James Leverton, who struck out 10 over seven two-hit scoreless innings in a semifinal win Sept. 9, gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out eight.

Sand Gnats counterpart Taylor Whitenton entered the seventh with a one-run lead, but couldn't escape the frame. He allowed three runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings.

Whitenton's fourth reliever, Chase Huchingson (1-1), pitched a perfect top of the 11th to earn the win.

Ceciliani, a fourth-round Mets draftee in 2009, went 3-for-4 and scored twice. His 11 hits lead all South Atlantic League peers in the postseason.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More