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Solar Sox Win AFL Championship
by Jack Magruder
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--Righthander Dewon Brazelton and outfielder Jason Dubois carried dominant Arizona Fall League seasons into the title game, leading the Mesa Solar Sox to the 2003 pennant Saturday.
Brazelton threw six shutout innings, his longest outing of the season, and struck out four in the Solar Sox's 7-2 victory over the Mesa Desert Dogs in the one-game championship at Scottsdale Stadium. The Sox had the best record in the league, 21-13.
"We really came out at the start of the year and swung the bats well," Solar Sox manager Pat Kelly (Braves) said. "Everybody played hard. These guys had a great passion."
Brazelton (Devil Rays) won his fifth game in as many Fall League decisions, giving up just two singles, both to Chris Duffy (Pirates). One was a high chopper to the shortstop side of second base that did not get out of the infield.
"I just tried to do what I've been doing--keep the ball down and throw strikes," Brazelton said.
Brazelton walked one and permitted only one runner as far as second base.
"That's the best-hitting team in the league, and Dewon shut them down," Kelly said.
Dubois (Cubs), who led the league in hits, doubles and home runs, had two doubles and two singles, scored twice and drove in a run. He doubled and scored in both the second and fourth innings off Desert Dogs starter Josh Hancock (Phillies), who gave up two runs in 3 2/3 innings. Dubois scored on an infield error in the second and on Kris Wilken's (Orioles) single in the fourth.
The Solar Sox scored three in the fourth to give Brazelton a 5-0 cushion. Second baseman Richard Lewis (Braves) singled and scored on Jonny Gomes' (Devil Rays) double. Dubois drove in a run with an infield single, and the other scored on an infield error.
Lewis hit a bases-empty home run in the seventh inning to make it 6-0. The Solar Sox led the league with 44 homers, five short of the league record set by Phoenix in 1997, when the league played 45 games. Lewis, a 2001 supplemental first-round pick , led the league in hitting at .404-3-19 while committing only one error in 21 games.
The Desert Dogs broke the shutout in the seventh, when Duffy beat out a grounder to deep third for his third hit and scored on Dan Johnson's (Athletics) double into the right-field corner.
Johnson led the league with 30 RBIs in the regular season while hitting .382. The Desert Dogs hit a composite .311 while winning the Northern Division at 18-13, threatening the league record (.317) set by the 1997 league champion Peoria Javelinas led by Mark Kotsay, Ryan Jackson, Orlando Cabrera and Brad Fullmer.
Tony Schrager (Red Sox) hit an inside-the-park homer for the Desert Dogs in the eighth inning, when his line drive to left-center field fell in front of two diving Solar Sox outfielders and caromed into deep left field.
Dubois was .358-9-29 in the regular season while also leading the league extra-base hits (23). He was second in RBIs and slugging percentage (.727) and third in runs (25).
"I came out here trying to stay within myself, stay patient and have a good year," said Dubois. "I'm always hard on myself. It went all right."
Because league teams played at the most 34 games, no individual records were set, though Peoria Javelinas outfielder David DeJesus (Royals) finished the season with an 18-game hitting streak, tying a league record set by Royals prospect Ken Harvey in 2002. DeJesus hit .289-6-14 with three triples, one short of the league lead.
Desert Dogs manager Tony Beasley (Pirates) delivered a strong rendition of the national anthem before the game. Beasley, 36, has led his minor league teams to the playoffs in all three of his summer seasons.