Stretch Run Report: SAL Playoffs – Savannah Sand Gnats

All the Sand Gnats had to do to get to the playoffs this year, was win either the first-half, or second-half championship, in the Southern Division of the South Atlantic League. Well guess what? They won both the first and second half titles! And currently they have the second-best overall W-L record in the whole league, at 79-58. Only the Northern Division champs, Hickory, has a better record at 79-57.

Congratulations to the Savannah Sand Gnats, 2011 South Atlantic League Southern Division 1st and 2nd Half Champions! Wow, will that even fit on a t-shirt? If they win the first round, you can take out the “1st and 2nd Half” part.

The Gnats have been a NY Mets farm team, low-A classification, since 2007. Since then they have only appeared in the playoffs one time, last year, when they won the first-half division title. They then lost in the first round to the Greenville Drive (Red Sox).

This year the first round of the Southern Division playoffs will feature a rematch of those two teams, with the Drive solidly entrenched in 2nd place in the overall standings.

Lefty Angel Cuan with a 10-3 record and a 3.56 ERA, and Taylor Whitenton, whose 2.51 ERA is second in the league, along with 8-game winner Yohan Almonte (3.91 ERA), lead a pitching staff which also boasts four 7-game winners. As a pitching staff, Savannah is first in the SAL in the following categories: Wins (tied), ERA, Shutouts, Saves, fewest Hits, Runs and ER’s, and best WHIP. Wow that’s some pretty good pitching. Props to pitching coach Glenn Abbott.

The hitting attack starts with top prospect 3B Aderlin Rodriguez, who despite a down year with the bat (.222 BA), has managed to hit 17 HR’s and drive in 77 runs. Other top prospects on the Gnats are: CF Darrell Ceciliani, SS Wilfredo Tovar, and catcher Albert Cordero. The Gnats also added substantial firepower by bringing in some “ringers” over the last few days. Just added for the playoff push were: C Cam Maron, SS Juan Carlos Gamboa, and OF Dustin Lawley.

The Gnats end their regular season Monday with their game against Lexington, then the best-of-three playoff series is slated to begin on Wednesday. The team is managed by Ryan Ellis, and plays their home games in historic Grayson Stadium, which opened in 1927, and seats 4,700 fans.