One strike. The Gnats were one strike away from the South Atlantic League Championship with a 9-8 lead in the top of the ninth inning Friday night. LHP Brandon Sage had a 1-2 count on the Grasshoppers' leadoff man, Noah Perio with the tying run at third. The crowd was on their feet. Perio slapped the 1-2 through the left side to score the tying run. The 'Hoppers eventually scored three runs in the 11th against Ronny Morla to capture game four and send the series to a winner-take-all game five.
The Gnats will host game five Saturday at 6:05 pm.
Here's the sound of the game tying base hit:
Part of the shame of the Grasshoppers' comeback is that it changed the story away from a remarkable Gnats' comeback. Trailing 7-2 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, the Gnats erupted for seven runs, the first six against Grasshoppers' starter Rett Varner to take a 9-7 lead. 3B Aderlin Rodriguez and LF Alonzo Harris each picked up RBI singles, but the big hit was a three-run triple from red-hot CF Darrell Ceciliani.
Here's the sound on Ceciliani's triple:
Why did the Grasshoppers have a big lead? Erik Goeddel, after five shutout innings in a deciding game three against Augusta got hit around Friday: 4 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 HP.
Rodriguez was 2-4 with a homer and was walked intentionally in the 10th inning with first base open. The long ball was his second of the four-game series.
The 'Hoppers have won two games in this series, and in both, the Gnats not only had a lead going to the ninth, but had a lead with two outs in the ninth.
The 24-year old Sage spent all of 2010 in the Savannah bullpen, making 40 appearances with a 3.07 ERA and an unremarkable 49 strikeouts against 12 walks in 58.2 innings pitched. He began 2011 in St. Lucie, was promoted to Binghamton in early May and in nearly two months at AA ran a 7.84 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched with 18 strikeouts, 13 walks and four homers. He re-joined the Gnats after getting sent down from St. Lucie on August 7th. Perhaps throwing the final pitch in a South Atlantic League Championship clincher would have offered him some small measure of personal redemption, but it was not to be Friday.