Richmond (Braves) swept a doubleheader after falling behind two games to one in the finals, beating Durham (Devil Rays) in five games to capture the Governor’™s Cup. With Game Four originally rained out, the two teams met in a doubleheader the following day and Richmond swept to the title. Outfielder Doug Clark slugged a three-run homer in the first inning of Game Five, all the Braves would need in a 7-2 win. Shortstop Brent Lillibridge led the Braves in hitting in the playoffs with a .378/.410/.405 line. It was the Braves’™ first title since 1994.
Sacramento (Athletics) finished a three-game sweep of New Orleans (Mets) with a 4-3 victory to claim the Pacific Coast League championship. First baseman Daric Barton led an offensive assault, batting .550 with four home runs in 20 postseason at-bats for Sacramento. Lefthander Jerry Blevins helped the pitching staff shut down opponents by recording two saves, striking out 20 and allowing four hits in nine innings. It was the River Cats’™ third title in five years.
Despite losing big arms to the big leagues in righthanders Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, Trenton (Yankees) rolled to its first Eastern League title after pounding 16 hits in a 10-5 win over Akron (Indians). Righthander Daniel McCutchen gave up four runs in five innings, but had plenty of support from the offense to earn the victory. Lefthander Chase Wright led Trenton’™s staff in the postseason, going 1-0, 0.66 in 14 innings. Akron lefthander Jeremy Sowers had the Aeros’™ only victory in the finals after tossing six shutout innings in Game Three. He finished at 2-0, 0.68 in 13 innings in the postseason.
For the second straight year, Montgomery (Devil Rays) and Huntsville (Brewers) met in the Southern League finals. And for the second straight year the Biscuits prevailed, in dramatic fashion. With one out in the top of the ninth inning of Game Five, the Biscuits trailed 3-1. Outfielder Sergio Pedroza came to the plate and smacked a three-run homer, which would prove to be the game winner as the Biscuits went up 4-3. Lefthander Jacob McGee led the Montogomery pitchers, going 1-0, 2.45 in 11 innings.
Both San Antonio (Padres) and Springfield (Cardinals) swept their first-round opponents, but the Cardinals proved no match for the Missions in the finals. Led by utilityman Brett Dowdy, who hit .379 with three home runs in 29 postseason at-bats, San Antonio cruised to the Texas League title in four games. The Missions were stacked with prospects, including third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Matt Antonelli and catcher Nick Hundley. Headley and Hundley each slugged two home runs in the playoffs. For more on the Missions, see Page 17.
San Jose’™s (Giants) outlook for a California League championship was bleak after two one-run losses to Lake Elsinore (Padres) in the finals. Down 2-0 in a best-of-five series, San Jose battled back, winning three straight games to capture the title. After losing the first two games by one run, the Giants outscored the Storm 15-2 in the final three games. In Game Five, shortstop Brian Bocock led San Jose with three RBIs, thanks to a three-run homer in the fourth inning. Second baseman Travis Denker was outstanding in the playoffs, hitting .524 with three home runs, but third baseman Mark Minicozzi took the MVP award after hitting .556 in the five-game finals.
First baseman Ryan Finan paced Frederick (Orioles) in the playoffs with a .409/.500/.818 line to help the Keys capture the Mills Cup over Salem (Astros). In the opening round, Frederick handled Wilmington (Royals) in a two-game sweep, while Salem battled Kinston (Indians) to a decisive third game. Frederick won the championship series in four games, with a great outing from righthander Chorye Spoone in the final matchup. Spoone threw a complete game, gave up 11 hits, but allowed just one run and struck out eight. It was Spoone’™s second complete game in the playoffs. He threw a one-hitter against Wilmington and struck out nine in the first round.
Clearwater (Phillies) captured its first Florida State title since 1993, beating Brevard County (Brewers) in four games. Righthander Andrew Carpenter went 61⁄3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out six, to win the decisive game. The Threshers were down 1-0 to Sarasota (Reds) in the opening round, but battled back to win the next two for the series and then run over the Manatees. The Manatees were also down to St. Lucie (Mets) after being shut out in the first game, but scored 20 runs in the next two games to advance.
West Michigan (Tigers) won its second straight Midwest League, beating Beloit (Twins) 11-5 in a decisive fifth game in the league finals. Both teams had swept their opponents in the previous two rounds, and the Snappers tied the finals at two after being down 2-0. An eight-run fifth inning powered the Whitecaps from a 5-3 deficit in the rubber match. Third baseman Michael Bertram and second baseman Scott Sizemore combined to go 6-for-10 with three RBIs and four runs scored in the final victory.
Columbus (Devil Rays) finished a three-game sweep of West Virginia (Brewers) with a 6-0 win to be crowned the South Atlantic League champions. Outfielder Ryan Royster got his only hit of the postseason, as he continued this season’™s display of power by cracking a three-run home run in the sixth inning to pad the Catfish lead. Columbus had overcome pitching-dominated Augusta (Giants) in the opening round with a two-game sweep, while West Virginia staved off surging Hickory (Pirates) in three games.
Lefthander Brett Cecil picked a perfect time for his longest outing of his young pro career. Cecil led Auburn (Blue Jays) over Brooklyn (Mets) for its first New York-Penn League title in 30 years with seven innings in which he gave up just one run on four hits and struck out eight. Catcher J.P. Arencibia gave the Doubledays the lead in the fifth with a two-run homer.
Salem-Keizer (Giants) capped a dominant season off with its fourth league title in eight years, beating Tri-City (Rockies) in four games. The Volcanoes were the only team in the Northwest League with a winning record (57-19).
For the third straight year, Elizabethton (Twins) and Danville (Braves) met in the Appy League championship series. The Twins prevailed in two games to take their second title in three years. Righthander Mike McCardell capped an eye-popping season by hurling six innings and surrendering just five hits while striking out seven in the 5-1 clincher. The Twins had taken the opening game 2-0 when outfielder Rene Tosoni broke up a pitcher’™s duel with a two-run home run in the 10th inning, spoiling a great start by lefthander Jose Ortegano who went five innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven.
Orem (Angels) claimed its third Pioneer League title in four years after sweeping Idaho Falls (Royals) in the first round and Great Falls (White Sox) in the finals. The final sweep didn’™t come easy, however, as the Owls and White Sox battled for 16 innings before third baseman Jay Brossman homered in the top of the 16th. It was his only hit of the game. First baseman Gordon Gronkowski led the Owls with a .308/.375/.615 line in the postseason.
Righthander Jake Wild struck out 14 in eight innings and surrendered only four hits to help the Mariners beat the Giants 8-5 in the one-game championship. Third baseman Mario Martinez was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
It wasn’™t quite the same matchup as past World Series, but the Yankees and Dodgers met in the Gulf Coast League championship to put a new spin on an old rivalry. The Yankees prevailed 2-1 in the best-of-three series, with catcher Jesus Montero leading the way. Montero hit .375 in 16 postseason at-bats with two home runs.