Originally created 09/06/98

Jackets season is ended



A marathon game for the ages ended the Augusta GreenJackets' season in the most heartbreaking of ways.

Locked in an unbelievable pitching battle, Ryan Soules' RBI-single in the top of the 14th inning off reliever Chris Combs lifted the Greensboro Bats to a 1-0 victory over the Jackets in Game 2 to complete the sweep in the South Atlantic League semifinals Saturday night at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

With two out in the 14th, Combs walked Friday night's hero Mark Mirizzi. After Mirizzi stole second, Soules drilled a 3-2 pitch past a lunging Derrick Lankford at first base for the game-winner.

Jason Ellison pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, including a 1-2-3 14th to pick up the victory.

Greensboro, now 16-1 in extra innings this season and 30-17 in one-run games, advances to the SAL Championship Series against the winner of the Capital City-Hagerstown semifinal series.

In a battle of two pitching staffs in the biggest of games, Jackets starter John Grabow was never better. On a night when home plate umpire Rusty Dillinger's strike zone was especially tight, the 19-year-old lefthander was brilliant for eight innings locked in a memorable duel with Greensboro starter Craig Lewis.

The Pirates' third-rounder in 1997 threw 84 pitches, allowing three hits while walking one and hitting one batter with six strikeouts, but was beginning to feel the effects of the 90-plus heat and was relieved by Brad Guy to start the ninth.

In 16 starts this season, Grabow had never worked past the seventh inning, and was 6-3 with a 5.78 ERA.

But working on just three days rest against a Jackets club leading the SAL with a .313 playoff average coming in, Lewis was equally dominant. The 6-foot-5 right-hander from Australia gave up just one hit -- a first-inning single by Kory DeHaan, and fanned five.

He also got some help in the seventh. Center fielder Paul Ottavinia made a leaping catch against the wall in straightaway center to rob DeHaan of extra bases leading off the inning.

The Jackets posed their first serious threat in the eighth when Jovanny Sosa reached on an error by shortstop Erick Almonte leading off the eighth. Pinch runner Manuel Ravelo, a 17-year-old making his appearance with the Jackets, moved to second on a perfectly-placed sacrifice bunt by Bo Hundt. But Lewis got Lee Evans out on a fly ball to right and fanned Victor Gutierrez to end the inning.

In the ninth, Terrance Freeman led off and beat out a slow roller to second base for an infield hit, but Lewis again bared down and retired the next three to strand Freeman at second and send it to extra innings.

Lewis was relieved by Chris Wallace to start the tenth after tossing nine innings of two-hit ball with no walks and five strikeouts, needing just 100 pitches to do so.

In 16 postseason innings, Lewis has allowed just six hits and one earned run. He was the Game 1 winner in Greensboro's first-round series victory over Cape Fear.

And there was no letting up by either bullpen.

Wallace worked out of jams in the 10th and 11th innings, giving up two hits in 2 2/3 innings to preserve the shutout.

After Guy worked two hitless innings for the Jackets, Paul Stabile took over and also worked his way through jams in the 11th and 12th, before Chris Combs took over in the 13th.

Greensboro -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 -- 1
Augusta -- 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 0

E -- Almonte (2). LOB -- Greensboro 9, Augusta 10. 2B -- Pinto (2). SB -- Mirizzi (1), Freeman (2), DeHaan (2). SH -- Hundt.