For five very tense innings, the outcome of Game 2 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series appeared to be in serious doubt for the Augusta GreenJackets.
The West Virginia Power, trailing 1-0 in the series, found a way to get a run off GreenJackets ace Madison Bumgarner for a 1-0 lead at the midway point while Augusta managed only two hits off Power starter Dan Merklinger.
"It was nerve-wracking," Bumgarner said. "I went out there and didn't have my best stuff."
But Nick Noonan's RBI single in the bottom of the sixth tied the game at 1 and sparked a four-run inning, which was capped by a two-run homer from Angel Villalona and proved to be the difference in a 5-1 Augusta win at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"I keep trying to remind myself that we've played enough of these games. This is the way we've played all year," GreenJackets manager Andy Skeels said. "We scratch and we claw and we finally score a few runs and then finish it out."
That's exactly what the GreenJackets did to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series that heads to Charleston, W.Va. The Power looked poised to escape Augusta with a split when Steffan Wilson's one-out double in the fourth moved Logan Schafer to third base and Shafer scored on a passed ball in the next at-bat for a 1-0 lead.
The GreenJackets responded with back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth inning that ended Merklinger's night. The second hit came from Noonan and scored Shane Jordan to tie the game. The backbreaker came two batters later when Dayton Buller's two-out pop behind first base fell between three West Virginia fielders. Noonan never broke stride on the play and scored from first base for the lead.
Villalona followed with a towering two-run homer on the next pitch to give the GreenJackets all the momentum.
Power reliever Mike Ramlow gave up three of the sixth-inning runs on three hits in one-third of an inning to pick up the loss. Merklinger got a no-decision, and Bumgarner picked up his second postseason victory.
Mitch Lively closed the game with three perfect innings for the save.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.