Sand Gnats Win Pivotal Game Three

In Savannah, the Sand Gnats won the third game of the SAL Championship Series Thursday night by a score of 4-3, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Sand Gnat 1B Joe Bonfe broke a 3-3 tie with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning when he singled with the bases loaded to drive in CF Darrell Ceciliani with the winning run.

The pitching was the real story in the game with both starters throwing very well. Greensboro starter RHP James Leverton went 6 IP, allowing 2 runs on 7 hits while striking out 8 and walking 1. Sand Gnats starter RHP Taylor Whitenton hurled 6.2 IP giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 8 and walking none. The Gnats bullpen was spot on, with three pitchers tossing 4.1 scoreless innings in relief, surrendering just 3 hits, and 1 walk. LHP Chase Huchingson pitched a perfect 11th to earn the victory.

The Gnats scored first in the bottom of the 2nd inning when with two out and the bases loaded, Leverton threw a wild pitch with Darrell Ceciliani at the plate allowing Bonfe, who was on third, to score the first run of the night.

Greensboro tied it in the 3rd, when after a lead-off triple by 3B Ryan Fisher, SS Daniel Black drove him in on a sac-fly to LF. Score tied 1-1.

Savannah took the lead again, this time in the 4th, when DH Albert Cordero doubled to lead-off the inning. He moved to third on a ground out. Then, after a strikeout by 2B Luis Nieves, LF Alonzo Harris singled to LF to score Cordero. Gnats up 2-1.

The Grasshoppers evened the score again in the fifth on back-to-back doubles to start the inning by DH James Wooster and C Jacob Realmuto. Whitenton then struck out the side, to staunch the bleeding. Score tied 2-2.

Greensboro would take the lead in the 7th inning on a lead-off single by 1B Mark Canha. After Whitenton struck out the next two batters, Ryan Fisher doubled to bring home Canha. Score 3-2, Greensboro.

Greensboro LHP Grant Dayton replaces Leverton in the 7th. And this time it was Savannah who came back to tie the score in the bottom half of the inning. Darrell Ceciliani led off the inning with a single. Then with one out, RF Rafael Fernandez doubled to score Ceciliani all the way from first. Score tied 3-3.

The score remained at 3-3 until the bottom of the 11th inning. RHP Jordan Conley, who had pitched a perfect 10th for Greensboro, stayed in to pitch the 11th and after Alonzo Harris grounded out leading off, a walk to Ceciliani, followed by a SS Wilfredo Tovar single, and an intentional walk to Fernandez, loaded the bases with one out. After C Blake Forsythe popped out to 1B for the second out, Joe Bonfe singled to RF, to bring in the game-winner, and make a loser of Conley, and the Grasshoppers.

The hitting stars of the game for the Gnats were: Ceciliani, who was on base five times, going 3-4 with 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. And of course, the hero Joe Bonfe who went 3-6 with a run scored, the game-winning RBI, and a double.

The series continues with Game Four, Friday night in Savannah. Pitching will be: RHP Rett Varner for the Grasshoppers, and RHP Erik Goeddel for the Gnats. Savannah now needs to win just one of the remaining two games to become 2011 SAL Champs.

Go Gnats!