For the first time since 1967, the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) took home the Governors' Cup as International League champions by sweeping three straight games from Indianapolis (Pirates). Mud Hens righthander Jason Grilli, the fourth overall pick in 1998, pitched into the eighth in the clincher, while outfielder Marcus Thames hit his third home run of the postseason in the 8-3 victory. The Mud Hens reached the finals by defeating Norfolk (Mets) 3-2 in the semifinals, while Indianapolis was also taken to the distance by Buffalo (Indians). Thames led Toledoâ€™s offense by batting .407-3-10 in eight postseason games, while closer Jason Karnuth earned the save in four of their six victories.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
The Nashville Sounds (Brewers) swept three games from Tacoma (Mariners) to win the Pacific Coast League title, their first championship since 1982, when the franchise was in the Southern League. Championship series MVP Nelson Cruz, who hit three home runs in the finals and finished the postseason with four homers and 11 RBIs in eight games, hit a three-run home run in the top of the 12th inning off Tacoma reliever Cha Seung Baek to give the Sounds a 5-2 win in game three. Nashville reached the finals by recovering from a 2-0 deficit in the semifinals by taking three straight games from Oklahoma (Rangers), while Tacoma did the same to defending champion Sacramento (Athletics).
The Akron Aeros (Indians) took three of four games from Portland (Red Sox) to win the Eastern League title, giving manager Torey Lovullo, who managed high Class A Kinston to the Carolina League title in 2004, his second straight title. Righthander Jake Dittler fired seven shutout innings in a 4-1 win in Game Four, while outfielder Nate Panther went 4-for-4, finishing the four-game series with a .500 average and taking home playoff MVP honors. Akron reached the finals by taking three out of five from Altoona (Pirates), while Portland held off Trenton (Yankees) by the same result after winning the first two games of the series, but losing two straight clinching opportunities.
The most prospect-laden team won the title in the most prospect-laden league, as the Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) took three of four from West Tenn (Cubs) to win their third title in the last ten years. Righthander Justin Orenduff, making his first postseason start, allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings in a 3-1 victory for the victory in Game Four, while closer Jonathan Broxton, who pitched seven shutout innings over four postseason games, pitched the final two frames for the save. Pitching was the story of the postseason for the Suns, who won six of seven games while compiling a team ERA of 1.57. The highlight occurred in Game Two of the semifinals, when righthander Chad Billingsley and Broxton combined on a no-hitter in a 2-0 win as the Suns went on to sweep Birmingham (White Sox).
After winning both halves of the Western Division, the Midland Rockhounds (Athletics) won their first Texas League title by taking three of four games from Arkansas (Angels). Rockhounds catcher Jeremy Brown had a huge postseason, batting .419-3-15. Midland reached the championship round by taking three of five from San Antonio (Mariners), while the Travelers used their powerful offense to sweep Tulsa (Rockies) in three games.
After finishing the regular season with a league-best record of 85-55, San Jose (Giants) recovered from a 2-0 deficit to win three straight games against Lake Elsinore (Padres) for their third California League championship. Outfielder John Bowker, who was named series MVP, laced an RBI single to begin a three-run rally in the seventh inning of a 3-1 win in game five, while Jason Waddell, pitching on two days rest after starting game three, struck out seven over three shutout innings for the victory. All of the drama overshadowed a tremendous first-round performance from High Desert (Royals) outfielder Chris Lubanski, who went 13-for-15 with seven runs and nine RBIs in just three games, including hitting for the cycle.
The Frederick Keys (Orioles) won their first Carolina League title since 1990, winning the Mills Cup by taking three of five games from defending champion Kinston (Indians). Series MVP Brian Finch fired five shutout innings in a 2-0 Game Five victory while 2005 draftee Garrett Olson, who delivered 10 shutout innings in the postseason, held onto the lead with two more scoreless frames. Both Fredrick and Kinston reached the finals with two game sweeps in the semifinals, with the Keys eliminating Lynchburg (Pirates), and Kinston sending home Winston-Salem (White Sox).
FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE
After finishing with the best record of any full-season team at 85-48, Lakeland (Tigers) was upset in the Florida State League championship by Palm Beach (Cardinals) who took three of five games to win their first league title. Trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning of the deciding game five, Cardinals outfielder Reid Gorecki homered off Tigers' reliever Chris Homer to force extra frames. In the top of the 10th, second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir, who failed to hit a home run in 226 regular season at-bats for the Cardinals, went deep for what provide to be the game-winning run.
Being one of the few minor leagues with a three-round playoff system meant little to the South Bend Silver Hawks (Diamondbacks) and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Mariners), as the two teams that won both halves of their respective division met in the finals, with South Bend winning three out of five games to win their first league title. The Silver Hawks won game five behind the arm of righthander Stephen Jackson, who tossed eight shutout innings in a 4-0 win. South Bend, who won their first six postseason games, including two game sweeps of Southwest Michigan (Devil Rays) and West Michigan (Tigers) before the finals, were led offensively by first baseman Cesar Nicholas, who hit .424-2-10 in nine games.
SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE
The Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) took three out of four games from Hagerstown (Mets) to win their first-ever league title. Jack Egbert and Garry Bakker combined on a six-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory in the clinching game, as shortstop Ryan McCarthy homered, drove in two runs and scored twice. The Intimidators, who had a team ERA of 2.22 in the postseason, reached the finals with a two game sweep of Charleston (Yankees) in the semifinals, while Hagerstown won two of three against Delmarva (Orioles).
NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE
Doing their parent club proud, the Staten Island Yankees are creating a dynasty of their own, winning their third league title in the last six years after finishing in last place for two straight seasons. Outfielder Reggie Corona singled home Joseph Burke in the ninth inning to win the title as the Yankees went a perfect 4-0 in the postseason, sweeping Williamsport (Pirates) in the first round, and Auburn (Blue Jays) in the finals--holding their opponents to just seven runs in the process.
Spokane (Rangers) became just the second team with a losing record to walk home with the title, winning their seventh Northwest League title since 1987 by winning the final two games of a five game series with Vancouver (Athletics). Game Five was a close affair until the eighth when the Indians broke open the game with four-run eighth inning for an 8-3 victory as Jonathan Higashi went 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
The Elizabethton Twins won the Appy League title, winning two of three games from the Danville Braves. After the Twins won Game One 5-4 on eighth inning RBIs from Erik Lis and Caleb Moore, the Braves bounced back with a 15-2 shellacking to force a decisive game three. Danville led Game Three 4-2 until the seventh, when Twins outfielder Mark Robinson's two-run single tied the game and catcher Sean Richardson's RBI single in the eighth put the Twins up for good.
Playing their first season as the Orem Owlz, the Angels affiliate won their second straight Pioneer League title with a two-game sweep of Helena (Brewers) in the championship series. The Owlz reached the finals by taking two of three games from Ogden (Dodgers), while Helena swept a pair of games from Billings (Reds).
GULF COAST LEAGUE
There were only three postseason games in the GCL this season, and the Yankees won all three of them, defeating the Red Sox in a one game playoff to reach the finals, where they swept a pair of games from the Mets. The Yankees outscored their opponents 17-4 in the three games and has a team ERA of 1.00.
The AZL Giants won their second straight league title by winning both halves of the season, eliminating the need for a one-game playoff.