Minor League Playoff Wrap

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUEAAA

For the second straight season Toledo (Tigers) took home the title, and they did it in dramatic fashion. After being stifled Games Two and Three by Rochester’s (Twins) Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins, the Mud Hens rediscovered their bats in the final two games of the series to outscore Rochester 16-1. It was a particularly impressive feat as the Mud Hens had to win a play-in game over Indianapolis (Pirates) just to qualify for the playoffs.

Third baseman Mike Hessman slugged five home runs in the playoffs for Toledo while outfielder Dustan Mohr and first baseman Josh Phelps added four apiece. Brian Boehringer and Colby Lewis anchored the Mud Hens pitching staff as the duo combined to allow just five runs in 24 playoff innings.

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUEAAA

Tucson (Diamondbacks) proved its mettle by steamrolling through the playoffs with a 6-1 record. After defeating Salt Lake (Angels) 3-1 in the opening round, the Sidewinders swept Round Rock (Astros) in three straight games.

Though Tucson featured one of the minors’ best offenses, righthanders Dustin Nippert (2-0, 0.63, 13 strikeouts in 14 innings) and Micah Owings (0-0, 1.35, 13 strikeouts in 13 inings) turned out to be the Sidewinders’ major weapons. First baseman Robby Hammock led the offense by hitting .320 in the playoffs with six RBIs. Round Rock catcher Hector Gimenez was the offensive star of the postseason as he went 13-for-28 with two homers.

EASTERN LEAGUEAA

After cruising to a 2-0 lead in the finals, Portland (Red Sox) looked poised for an easy series win. Akron (Indians) rallied to win the next two games, however, and it came down to a winner-take-all Game Five.

Akron could not complete the comeback as Portland righthander Devern Hansack allowed just three runs in eight strong innings to earn the win. It was the 28-year-old’s second win of the series, and he was rewarded with a callup to the majors. Overall, Hansack went 2-1, 2.11 with a 17-3 strikeout-walk ratio in 21 playoff innings, helping the Sea Dogs win their first-ever Eastern League title.

SOUTHERN LEAGUEAA

Montgomery (Devil Rays) joined Portland as first-time champions when the Biscuits took home their first Southern League title in four games against Hunstville (Brewers).

The clinching game was a coronation for Montgomery as second baseman Elliot Johnson hit for the cycle while third baseman Evan Longoria and DH Michael Coleman added three-run homers. Coleman went 8-for-22 in the playoffs with four homers and 10 RBIs while Longoria added three bombs of his own.

Righthander Mitch Talbot went 2-0, 0.00 in 18 postseason innings for the Biscuits to pace their pitching staff.

TEXAS LEAGUEAA

The biggest story of the Texas League playoffs was the final game as Corpus Christi (Astros) edged Wichita (Royals) 8-7 in 14 innings to win Game Four and the title in the team’s second season in Corpus Christi.

Shortstop Wade Robinson singled in outfielder Jorge Cortes in the 14th for the win, but that was only the final act in an amazing game. The Wranglers took a 6-5 lead into the eighth, but Corpus Christi tied the game thanks to a pair of walks and a pair of hit batters. Wichita seemed to be in position to send the series to a deciding Game Five in the ninth, as Minor League Player of the Year Alex Gordon came up with no outs and runners at second and third. But Gordon lined to first baseman Josh Bonifay, who stepped on first, then threw to second to complete a triple play.

CALIFORNIA LEAGUEHIGH A

Trailing 2-1 to Visalia (Devil Rays) in the finals, Inland Empire (Mariners) rallied to win the series’ final two games to take the California League crown.

Four 66ers pitchers combined to shut down the potent Visalia offense in the deciding game, allowing just five hits and issuing three walks while striking out 10. Outfielder Josh Womack got the 66ers on the board with an inside-the-park home run down the right-field line in the fifth inning. Then in the eighth, first baseman Johan Limonta broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI double that proved to be the game-winner.

Justin Thomas shined the brightest for Inland Empire throughout the postseason as he went 1-0, 0.00 in 13 innings with 17 strikeouts and just eight hits allowed.

CAROLINA LEAGUEHIGH A

They might want to consider renaming this the Kinston League, because the Indians have owned it in recent year. In sweeping Frederick (Orioles), the K-Tribe won its second title in three years in the team’s 11th trip to the title series in 20 years in the league.

First baseman Stephen Head hit .389 in the playoffs for Kinston while outfielder Jose Costanza hit .375. In winning all five of their postseason contests, Kinston pitching allowed just 11 runs.

FLORIDA STATE LEAGUEHIGH A

St. Lucie (Mets) needed ninth-inning rallies to win the first two games of the best-of-five Florida State League championship series, but no late heroics were necessary in the final game as the Mets completed a sweep against Dunedin (Blue Jays). Catcher Jesus Flores went 4-for-4 to lead a 15-hit St. Lucie barrage as the Mets cruised to their second FSL title in four years behind ace Jose Sanchez and 17-year-old center fielder Fernando Martinez, who doubled and homered to cap off his breakout 2006 season.

It was the first full season of managing for St. Lucie’s Gary Carter. In his first season in 2005 he took the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets to the league finals on the strength of the best record in the league.

MIDWEST LEAGUELOW A

West Michigan (Tigers) had the best record in the Midwest League during the regular season, so it was fitting that the Whitecaps cruised to the title. After losing Game One of the finals to Kane County (Athletics), West Michigan stormed back to win the next three games.

West Michigan finished off the Cougars with eight runs over the first four innings of Game Four and got six strong innings from Eric Averill who went 2-0, 0.00 in the playoffs. Shortstop Mike Hollimon slugged four homers in the postseason to power the offense.

SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUELOW A

Lakewood (Phillies) had never made the playoffs since joining the South Atlantic League in 2001. The BlueClaws finally got past that barrier this season and went all the way behind the talented pitching trio of Josh Outman, Matt Maloney and Carlos Carrasco, who combined to allow five runs in 35 postseason innings.

Maloney got the win in the clinching game as the lefthander fanned 11 in seven innings and the BlueClaws took down Augusta three games to one. Lakewood needed all the pitching it could get, batting just .192 as a team in the postseason.

NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUESS

The Yankees have rarely had trouble winning big league titles, even in the New York-Penn League. Staten Island took home its second straight title after defeating Tri-City (Astros) two out of three games.

George Kontos got the win in the deciding game for Staten Island as he struck out 11 in six innings for his second win of the playoffs in a 2-0 victory. First baseman Kyle Larsen drove home both runs for the Yankees and finished the postseason with a .389 average along with two homers and seven RBIs.

NORTHWEST LEAGUESS

Salem-Keizer (Giants), which went 55-21 to win the Northwest League’s Western Division by 12 games, capped off its dominant season by winning the NWL championship in four games against Boise (Cubs).

Righthander Kevin Pucetas struck out four and allowed five hits over six shutout innings in the Volcanoes’ 6-4 win in the finale. Emmanuel Burriss and Adam Witter had two hits apiece to lead the Salem-Keizer offense, and center fielder Michael McBryde preserved the win with a diving catch in the eighth inning, robbing Steven Clevenger of a likely two-run double that would have tied the game.

APPALACHIAN LEAGUER

Danville upended Elizabethton for the Appalachian League title. Because of the after-effects of Tropical Storm Ernesto, the two teams had to decide the championship in a doubleheader after the Braves had won the opener.

The Twins took the first game of the doubleheader to tie the series at 1-1. In the nightcap–with the league title on the line and the score tied at 3-3 in the seventh–Braves third baseman Danny Brezeale connected for the go-ahead home run. Atlanta’s 19th-round pick in 2004, Brezeale was 7-for-10 with three RBIs in the series. The championship was the Braves’ first in 13 seasons in Danville.

PIONEER LEAGUER

Missoula (Diamondbacks) rode the pitching of Osbek Castillo and Hector Ambriz and the hitting of Shea McFeely to its first Pioneer League title in eight years.

McFeely, who helped lead Oregon State to the College World Series championship in June, hit a three-run homer in the fifth. Castillo, a Cuban defector, and Ambriz, a fifth-round pick out of UCLA in June, combined on a four-hitter as Missoula beat Idaho Falls 4-2 in Game Two as Missoula swept to the league title with two two-game sweeps.

ARIZONA LEAGUER

The Padres defeated the Angels 5-2 in a one-game playoff to determine the Arizona League champion. The Padres got 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief from Matthew Huff and Matt Handley to seal the victory.

GULF COAST LEAGUER

It won’t make up for their big league club fading down the stretch, but the Red Sox managed to beat the Dodgers in three games to win the Gulf Coast League title. The clincher was anti-climactic as the Sox trounced the Dodgers 11-2.

Minors | #2006 #Season Recap

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