SAVANNAH, GA – The Savannah Sand Gnats finished their best regular season in 16 years with a 2-1 victory on Labor Day Monday over the Asheville Tourists. The first half champion Gnats won nine of their final 11 games to finish the regular season at 75-64.
The last time a Savannah team won as many as 75 games in a season was 1994, when Savannah finished 82-55 and won the SAL Championship. Savannah won the SAL championship in 1996 after going 72-69 in the regular season. Savannah will go to the playoffs in 2010 for the first time since 1996.
The Gnats (33-36/75-64) scored the game's first run Monday in the second inning. With one out, 2B Jet Butler singled, stole second and came home on C Albert Cordero's RBI single into center field. Cordero, recently promoted from rookie-level Kingsport, was 2-3 in his Savannah debut. Savannah made it 2-0 in the third when SS Luis Nieves, who has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, bunted his way aboard, and scored on a passed ball.
Savannah starter Collin McHugh (7-8, 3.33) tossed five shutout innings in his final tune-up before the playoffs. McHugh, who was perfect through four innings, struck out five and gave up just one hit, a double leading off the fifth inning. McHugh has not allowed a run in his last 14 innings of work.
The Tourists scored their only run of the game on a solo home run by C Anthony Aguilera, his first of the year against reliever Michael Hebert, who was making his second appearance for Savannah, in the eighth inning. Luis Rojas nailed down the final two outs in the ninth for his first Savannah save.
The Gnats open the Southern Division Championship series in Greenville on Wednesday night at 7 pm.