ASHEVILLE, NC – The Asheville Tourists welcomed the first place Savannah Sand Gnats to McCormick Field Sunday afternoon for game one of a three game set. The Sand Gnats jumped out to an early lead and then rallied in the late innings to come away with an 8-5 win over the Tourists.
Savannah started off on the right foot when Rafael Fernandez crushed a two-run Home Run in the top of the first inning off Asheville’s starter Josh Slaats (1-1, 7.54). The Sand Gnats added one more in the second inning when Blake Forsythe doubled to lead off the frame and came home to score on an errant throw by Brett Tanos. The Tourists third baseman was trying to throw out Joe Bonfe who reached on a bunt single.
After Fernandez singled home Darrell Ceciliani in the fifth and put the Sand Gnats in front 4-0, the Tourists found their rhythm at the plate. Rafael Ortega doubled with two outs and Tanos followed with a triple. Bryce Massanari made it three hits in a row by singling home Tanos and the Sand Gnats lead was trimmed in half.
Asheville took their first lead in the sixth inning by tallying three runs on two long balls. Chandler Laurent hit a solo shot with one out off Greg Peavey (5-2, 3.27), who retired only three Tourists hitters the third time through the line-up. Trailing 4-3, Tyler Massy was hit by a pitch and Russell Wilson followed with a monstrous two-run blast to left-center giving Asheville a 5-4 advantage.
The Sand Gnats drew even with an unearned run in the seventh inning. Aderlin Rodriguez doubled home Robbie Shields with two outs to tie the score 5-5. The Tourists look destined to blow the game open in the bottom of the seventh, when Savannah Reliever Angel Cuan relieved Peavey and could not find the strike zone. Cuan walked Tanos and Massanari to lead off the inning. He fell behind Kyle Parker 3-0, but battled back to retire Parker and then induce an inning ending double play.
Riding that momentum, the Sand Gnats scored three in the top of the eighth. Albert Cordero walked with one out and scored from first on a double from Wilfredo Tovar. The next batter, Ciciliani, smashed a Home Run over the scoreboard in right field to put the Sand Gnats back in front for good 8-5.
Asheville rallied in the eighth, loading the bases on three straight singles off Cuan with one out, but Savannah went to Josh Edgin to limit the damage. Edgin worked out of the jam without allowing any runs and then struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save.
The Tourists and the Sand Gnats play game two of the series Monday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05pm.