Originally created 09/12/99

GreenJackets take Game 2

HICKORY, N.C. -- A grand slam wasn't enough to keep the Augusta GreenJackets' season alive, but Tony DeRosso wasn't finished yet.

Thanks to the 23-year-old's heroics, the Jackets are also not yet finished in 1999.

With their championship aspirations fading fast, DeRosso's teammates got new life with his second six-RBI performance this season to lift the Jackets to a 9-4 victory over the Hickory Crawdads in Game 2 of the South Atlantic League semifinals.

"Nobody here was ready to go home tonight, and we all came together and got it done when we had to," said DeRosso, who belted his first career slam in the sixth inning then delivered the game-winning two-run double in the seventh to force a decisive Game 3 of the series tonight at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Jackets will send ace Jason Norton (9-6, 2.32 ERA) to the mound vs. left-hander and former Jacket John Grabow (9-10, 3.80).

With a victory, Augusta advances to the SAL Championship series in their first season as a Boston Red Sox affiliate. It would also be the franchise's first trip to the league finals since the Jackets won the 1995 SAL crown as a Pittsburgh Pirates farm club.

Hickory had not won a playoff game until this season, their first as a Pirates affiliate and seventh in the SAL. The Crawdads had won three straight games to open the 1999 postseason, sweeping the Macon Braves in the divisional playoffs, then defeating the Jackets 3-2 in Game 1 of the semifinals Friday night in Augusta.

"There's really no more pressure on us now because tonight was our Game 3," Jackets manager Billy Gardner said. "We either had to win or we go home, and we didn't that. I knew this ballclub wouldn't go down without a fight."

But for five innings, Hickory starting pitcher Franklin Bravo seemed destined to send Augusta packing and keep the Crawdads' perfect playoff record intact.

The 19-year-old right-hander, one of eight former Jackets on the Hickory roster, was working on a one-hitter and a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the sixth inning.

The wheels quickly fell off.

Augusta's top three in the order -- Carlos Leon, Alex Ahumada and Angel Santos -- stroked consecutive singles to load the bases for DeRosso.

With the count full, Bravo left a breaking ball on the inside half, and DeRosso unloaded, crushing his third playoff home run, which caromed off a stadium light tower in left field. But in the bottom of the sixth, with reliever Terrance Hill on for starter Marty McLeary, Crawdads left fielder Jay Hobbs belted a three-run home run to tie the game 4-4.

"We could have got down after that but we never gave up," said DeRosso, who spent most of the 1996 and 1997 seasons at Double-A Trenton, but had been sidelined for all but 16 games in 1998 and the first four months of 1999 with an Achilles tendon injury.

"It was great to see us battle back to take the lead again the following inning. A lot of teams would have quit but we didn't."

DeRosso's two-run double off Hickory reliever Clint Johnston -- the Pirates' No. 1-draft pick in 1998 who began his pro career with the Jackets last season -- gave Augusta the lead for good.

"He should be able to hit in this league and that's what he's been doing," Hickory manager Tracy Woodson said of DeRosso. "We're just going to have to a better job on him (tonight)."


Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com


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