Thursday, September 13, 2007

Catfish win S.A.L. title

Got good reason to smile tonight.

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
What started out as a pitcher's duel between the Catfish' Jeremy Hellickson (13-3, 2.67 ERA season; 1-0, 1.00 ERA playoffs) and West Virginia's Donovan Hand (3-4, 2.95 ERA season; 1-0, 4.00 ERA playoffs) was washed away due to a 1:54 rain delay.

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.

[The YouTube]

Naturally, a celebration started at first base, and worked its way to home plate, amidst SAL president John H. Moss presenting the championship trophy to Catfish manager Jim Morrison.

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
The storming through Augusta, and the sweep of West Virginia, has shown just how good and balanced this Catfish team is. I seen some good players this season. None with quite the flash that some of the Dodgers players had during the last 3 years. But the Dodgers never put a championship team on the field. This Catfish team is head and shoulders above the rest of the South Atlantic League, as shown by their dominance of two of the best teams in Class A ball: Augusta, who the Catfish beat for the Division championship, and West Virginia, who powered past most of their opponents all season long.

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.


  1. Congrats to the Fish -- but shame, shame on the people of Columbus for not turning out in larger numbers for the title game.

    BTW, how did you get an attendance number? I showed up in the top of the seventh, and never heard one announced.

  2. Thanks! Wish I'd have run into you at the game.

    Oh, the attendance? No, they didn't announce it. But had it at the bottom of the box score of the game.

  3. Thank, you, sir.

    Oh, y'all got one heckuva organization there. And some really great fans.

  4. We were talking last night on the way home, about the guys. At the start of the season, I think 2 days before game 1, we went down to watch practice. We said that day, "These guys look pretty dang good". Good ball players, great guys. Matt Fields hugged me after the game last night, they were all so happy. Terrific season.

  5. Jon: Yeah, this was a special team. "Pretty dang good" sums it up.

  6. Attendance could always be worse. Check out this from the Florida Marlins...

  7. You 'puter experts-I need some help. I was trying to upload video I shot last night to youtube. I have uploaded dozens of videos there, here is one example- and never had any trouble. Today, I keep getting the "exceeded megs" message, or something like that. I have done absolutely nothing different than I have ever done before. I even whittle the video down to under 3 minutes, thinking maybe it was too long to upload. Still, nothing. Any advice? I am stumped, as nothing has been done any differently.

  8. "The file cannot exceed more than (number allowed) megs " is the message...

  9. Sorry for all the posts....First video is up.....more to come, keep checking....

  10. Basil is now an international star. I expect royalty checks to arrive in the mail anytime!

  11. So what was your brewski of choice, Basil? Congrats to the Catfish!

  12. Congrats to the Catfish! Thank for data of this.


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