AUGUSTA, GA - The Savannah Sand Gnats beat the Augusta GreenJackets 9-5 on Sunday afternoon in Augusta to clinch the first-half championship in the South Atlantic League Southern Division. Savannah heads to the playoffs for the first time since winning the SAL Championship as a Wild Card as the Savannah Cardinals in 1996. The half championship is the first for Savannah since the team won the second half of the 1994 season.
Savannah never trailed on Sunday, beginning the scoring with a two-run second inning that chased 'Jackets' starter Jeremy Toole. 1B Alex Gregory brought home the first Gnats' run with a sacrifice fly and DH Pedro Zapata made it 2-0 with an RBI single up the middle that extended his hitting streak to seven straight games.
After the GreenJackets closed to within a run at 2-1, the Gnats took advantage of two Augusta errors to score four runs in the fourth. A Wilmer Flores RBI double down the line made the score 5-1. Augusta manager Dave Machemer was ejected arguing that the ball had kicked foul on the play. CF Juan Lagares' single in the inning completed the scoring to give Savannah a 6-1 lead after the fourth.
The GreenJackets scored four unearned runs in the fifth inning, helped by a pair of Gnats throwing errors to close within a run at 6-5.
Savannah starter Jimmy Fuller earned the win for his five innings of work. He gave up five runs, only one of which was earned, to improve to 6-2.
The Gnats added an insurance run in the seventh on RBI single from Kai Gronauer that brought home Lagares to make the score 7-5. Savannah added two more in the ninth on singles from LF Rafael Fernandez and 3B Jefry Marte to complete the game's scoring. Marte was 3-4 Sunday.
Savannah reliever Lance Hoge gave the team three important, scoreless innings of relief behind Fuller in his first game appearance in nine days. Savannah closer Michael Powers handled the ninth.
The Gnats are off Monday-Wednesday for the SAL All-Star Break. Savannah returns to action with a Thirsty Thursday at Historic Grayson Stadium on June 24 against the Asheville Tourists. All beers and sodas are 2-for-1 thanks to Budweiser, Connect Savannah and Rock 106.1.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.