Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Grasshoppers win Sally championship

Greensboro's five-run fourth inning enough to stop Savannah
September 17, 2011
The South Atlantic League Championship Series featured so many tense moments, including two walk-off wins and Greensboro rallying one strike from elimination on Friday. The victorious manager was just happy to be a part of it.

"I would have bought a ticket to watch this series," second-year skipper Andy Haines said.

The Grasshoppers scored five times in the fourth inning and defeated the host Savannah Sand Gnats, 7-3, on Saturday in the decisive fifth game of the SAL Finals.

Greensboro secured its first title since winning three straight from 1980-82, when it was known as the Hornets during the franchise's first three years in the league. The club was renamed the Bats in 1994 and, finally, the Grasshoppers in 2005.

"The run we have been on for a while has been remarkable, so for it to end this way is pretty fitting," Haines said. "Our conversation before the playoffs was, 'You just keep playing and you keep plugging,' because these playoffs, it's not over 'til the last pitch of the last game. Anything can happen and it can change fast.

"These guys have taken perseverance to the Nth degree, and it showed in this series... Our hats off to Savannah. It's almost unfair someone had to lose with how well this series was played."

The first four games of the best-of-5 series were decided by an average of two runs. The Grasshoppers, who swept Hickory, 2-0, in the semifinals, won Game 1 on Mark Canha's walk-off hit and lost Games 2 and 3 before -- one strike from elimination in the ninth inning -- winning wildly in Game 4 on Friday.

Facing a 2-0 deficit through three innings and looking lost against against Sand Gnats starter Angel Cuan, the fourth frame looked to be status quo. Cuan (0-1) retired Wilfredo Gimenez and fanned Ryan Fisher.

Then six straight Grasshoppers reached base as Daniel Black singled, Isaac Galloway tripled, Noah Perio singled, Marcell Ozuna doubled, Christian Yelich reached on an error and Mark Canha singled home Yelich with a fifth run.

"Their pitcher was leaving the ball up in the zone and we kept swinging," said Ozuna, who plated three runs and went 2-for-4 to raise his postseason batting average to .353. "That was the key to winning the game."

In addition to Ozuna, Perio, Yelich, Galloway and Canha recorded multi-hit games. Perio, the leadoff man, was 4-for-6.

"That's been our m.o. for a while. When a team scores, we tend to bounce right back," Haines said. "The last game of the season, we did it again; we did our thing."

Grasshoppers starter Kyle Winters (1-0) allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits over 6 2/3 frames. He walked three and struck out four.

Winters had allowed three runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings in the Finals opener on Monday.

"He wasn't as sharp in Game 1 and I told him, 'We're going to need you in Game 5 and you're going to be the man, and he was the man," Haines said. "That was as good as I have seen him."

Michael Ojala and Grant Dayton yielded one hit and struck out five over the final 2 1/3 innings.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to