Scranton Holds Early Lead, Wins Triple-A National Championship

MEMPHIS—One pitch made all the difference Tuesday in the Triple-A National Championship at AutoZone Park, which pitted the winners of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues in a one-game winner-take-all event.

Walker Lockett threw it for El Paso, having already yielded leadoff singles to Mark Payton and Clint Frazier, two-thirds of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfield, to start the game.

Chris Parmelee hit it, lofting a fly ball to right field that snuck inside the foul pole and over the 322-foot sign in the right-field corner.

Just like that, three batters into the game, Scranton had a 3-0 lead. Lefthander Jordan Montgomery pitched five strong innings before leaving in the sixth, when El Paso scratched out a run, but three relievers held the minors’ most explosive offense in check for a 3-1 victory and the Triple-A title for the RailRiders.

“This is my first minor league championship,” Parmelee said as he accepted the Baseball America MVP trophy after the game. “So it’s pretty special. We just were able to do what our manager (Al Pedrique) kept saying all year, ‘Keep working,’ and it worked out for us.”

A 2006 first-round pick of the Twins, Parmelee has more than 1,000 big league plate appearances, with a .248/.313/.405 slash line and 30 home runs. But he’s spent nearly all of ’16 in the minors with Scranton, hitting 11 home runs as a semi-regular and getting more time after players such as Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin were promoted to New York.

Parmelee’s homer off Lockett gave Montgomery an early lead that had to help considering he hadn’t gotten out of the first inning in his previous start, against Gwinnett in the IL’s Governor’s Cup finals.

“It was big, because I was able to get in a routine that I wasn’t able to find in my last start,” Montgomery said. “They were aggressive and looking for fastballs, and I was able to take advantage of that and let my defense work behind me.”

Johnny Barbato stranded two runners and escaped further damage in the sixth, then 34-year-old big league veteran Phil Coke provided two perfect innings, striking out two and hitting 98 on a hot stadium radar gun. Closer Giovanny Gallegos capped a fantastic season with a perfect ninth for the save.

Gallegos, who split his year between Double-A Trenton and Scranton, went 7-2, 1.27 with four saves overall with 106 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 78 innings, then struck out nine more in 6.2 postseason innings for the RailRiders.

This was just the fourth national championship for the IL since the single-game event began in 2006. Durham (2009) and Columbus (2010-11) were previous winners, but the PCL had won the last four.

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