Another 5-2 win tonight put the Columbus Catfish one win away from the South Atlantic League title. Last night, the Catfish took game one of the best-of-five series by a 5-2 come-from-behind win over the West Virginia Power (Brewers). Tonight, though, the Catfish led the whole way.
In the first inning, Maiko Loyola led off with a solo home run on the 2nd pitch of the game, putting the Catfish up 1-0. John Matulia doubled, then scored on a single by Cesar Suarez, and they were up 2-0.
West Virginia cut the lead in half in the bottom of the 1st, scoring a run on a pair of singles with a walk sandwiched in between.
West Virginia threatened in the 2nd, and forced pitcher Will Kline to throw over 50 pitches in the first three innings, but Kline managed to keep them off the board before being lifted after the end of the 3rd.
In the 4th, with 2 outs, Seth Dhaenens walked and Matt Fields singled, and moved to third on a play at third. Quinn Stewart then singled to center, scoring both runners and putting the Catfish up 4-1.
In the bottom of the 4th, John Alonso, who batted .400 for West Virginia during the last 2 weeks of the regular season, homered to cut the lead again, 4-2.
In the 6th, Ryan Royster walked, stole second, and moved to third on an error. With 1 out, Quinn Stewart sacrificed him home, giving the Catfish a 5-2 lead.
West Virginia continued to threaten throughout the game, but couldn't manage to punch anything across against the Catfish.
Kline got in trouble in the first 2 innings, but set West Virginia down in order in the 3rd, but was lifted due to his high pitch count, and was ineligible for the win. He allowed 3 hits, a run, 2 walks, and struck out 4.
New Catfish pitcher Jeremy Hall, who made one appearance during the regular season after being promoted to Columbus, went 4-1/3 innings, allowing a run on 3 hits, walking 1 and striking out 1. He picked up his first post-season win, and second as a Catfish.
Ryan Owen faced three batters, retiring them all, 2 by strikeout, to set it up for Ryan Reid, who set down the final 2 batters to end the game.
Fields and Suarez each had 2 hits for the Catfish. Stewart had 3 RBIs, bringing his post-season total to 7.
Defensively, the Catfish managed to strand 6 West Virginia runners, 4 in scoring position. Loyola threw out one West Virginia base runner trying to stretch and RBI single into a double, to help the 1st inning from getting out of control.
The win puts the Catfish one win away from their first title since the team was founded in 2001 as the Wilmington Waves. A South Atlantic League title would be the first baseball league title for Columbus since 1986, when the Columbus Astros won the Southern League championship.
If the Catfish win Wednesday, they'd be the first Minor League Baseball (affiliated ball) full-season team this year to sweep through the playoffs with a title. The Appalachian League plays a 68-game schedule and has a single-round best-of-three title series, won in 2 games by the Elizabethton Twins. The West Michigan Whitecaps are also unbeaten in post-season play, and could complete a post-season sweep with wins Wednesday and Thursday.
But I'll be at the Catfish game. And I've got tickets standing by for a Charleston, West Virginia newspaperman (and blogger), should he decided to cover the series. But I wouldn't blame him if he passed on the opportunity. That's a long ride back to West Virginia.