The Columbus Catfish beat the West Virginia Power (Brewers) tonight, 6-0, to win their first South Atlantic League championship in a 3-game sweep.
|Photo: Columbus Catfish|
Catfish reliever Wilton Noel took over to start the 4th following the delay, pitched 3 innings, allowing 2 hits, issuing 1 walk, and striking 1 out as he took the win, as, for the first time in the championship series, the Catfish scored off the West Virginia bullpen.
West Virginia nearly got on the board first in the 4th inning. With 1 out, Matt LaPorta, whose dad I had the chance to chat briefly with during the rain delay, walked, and moved to second on John Alonso's 1-out single. Kenneth Holmberg then singled to left, and LaPorta tried to score. C Nevin Ashley was unable to handle Royster's throw to the plate and Noel backed him up, spotted that Alonso missed the plate, tossed the ball to Ashley, who tagged Alonso for out three. West Virginia argued the call, but the umpire stood his ground, and the threat was squashed.
In the 5th, the Catfish finally solved the West Virginia bullpen. Matt Fields homered to the deepest part of the field, just to the left of straight-away center, putting the Catfish up 1-0.
In the 6th, John Matulia singled to start the inning. With 1 out, Nevin Ashley singles to, putting runners on the corner. Didn't matter where they were, as it turned out, as Ryan Royster broke out of a 1-for-September slump with a blast that cleared the wall in the left field corner. The 3-run shot put the Catfish up 4-0.
And, in the 7th, the Catfish put up two more. John Matulia doubled, then scored when Cesar Suarez hit an inside pitch to left field, making it 6-0.
The Catfish bullpen pitched strong tonight. Following West Virginia's near-score in the 4th, they went down in order until the 8th, when Stephen Chapman off reliever Ryan Owen, who had pitched a perfect 7th. Columbus native Brian Baker, who led Columbus High to the state championship and Columbus State to the Division II championship, came in and coaxed two ground balls to record a force, then a double play to end the threat.
Neal Frontz got in a little trouble in the 9th, when West Virginia put runners on first and second with no one out. But a double play got the lead runner at third, and a grounder to short ended the game, giving Columbus the South Atlantic League title.
Skipper gave all the credit to his players and staff, telling the crowd of 1,317 that they were a special group of young men, many of whom we'd be seeing in the majors.
The team managed to dump a bucket of ice on Skipper while Moss was congratulating him. They put on their championship t-shirts and threw hats to the crowd before leaving the field.
I don't yet know who will be the playoff MVP, although Quinn Stewart and Maiko Loyola made their cases. Stewart hit .471 and Loyola hit .381. Of course, Heath Rollins won a pair of games, the openers of each series. Those come immediately to mind, but that's not to slight any of the players on the team.
|Photo: Columbus Catfish|
It's late. I'm tired. But I'm excited. And I'm happy for those 27 young men who now hold the title of South Atlantic League champions.
Update: One bit of trivia. Catfish reliever Brian Baker, who pitched in the 8th inning tonight, is no stranger to winning championships in Columbus. He helped Columbus High school win the state title in 2000, and was Most Outstanding Player in the 2002 Division II championship, won by Columbus State. He's won at high school, college, and now pros.