The Myrtle Beach Pelicans won the Mills Cup tonight with a 3-2 win over the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals) on a walkoff infield single by Pin-Chieh Chen. The Pelicans swept the best-of-five series in three games.
Duane Underwood Jr. started game three for the Pelicans and was dominating at times. At one point Underwood struck out five straight batters. Underwood did give up a run in the third inning after a double, an error by second baseman Daniel Lockhart, and a single to right field came with one out. But Underwood put down the uprising with the first two of his five straight strikeouts.
The final line on Underwood was six innings, allowing one run on five hits. Underwood struck out seven and walked no one, although he did hit one batter.
Underwood was staked to a 2-0 lead as the Pelicans scored a run in both the first and second innings. The first run came after Chesny Young and Chen led off the bottom half of the first and then Young scored after a Jorge Soler fly out sent him to third and a Victor Caratini sac fly gave the Pelicans the early lead.
The run in the second inning came when shortstop Gleyber Torres walked after two were out. Torres then stole second and scored on a Lockhart double.
It would remain 2-1 until the ninth inning. David Garner would relieve Underwood in the seventh inning and, after retiring the first batter in the ninth, walked the next two batters on eight pitches. Garner was then saved by Chen making a terrific diving catch in center field that saved at least one run and probably two. Garner would then strike out the next batter to end the seventh and strike out the side in order in the eighth.
David Berg was the winning pitcher in game one, got the save in game two and he was summoned to get the save in the top of the ninth. Berg got the first Blue Rocks hitter to hit a weak ground ball that found the hole between short and third for a hit. After a sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Mike Hill lined a shot back up the middle that Berg almost got a glove on and to be honest, almost took off his head. Instead, the ball went into center field for a game-tying single. Berg next induced an inning-ending double play to limit the damage, but the save was already blown.
So the Pelicans went to the bottom of the ninth needing a run to win the Mills Cup trophy without going to extras. Things looked good when Mark Zagunis led off the season with a single and Jason Vosler walked, putting runners on first and second with no outs. A perfect bunt by Torres put runners on second and third and Torres almost beat out the throw to first.
That brought Lockhart to the plate, just needing a deep fly to win the title. But Lockhart's fly ball only made it out to short left field and Zagunis had to hold.
The Blue Rocks then intentionally walked Carolina League batting champion Young to face Chen, but not before pulling left-handed pitcher Luis Rico and bringing in right-hander Yender Caramo to face the left-handed Chen. (Chen does have a pretty strong reverse-platoon numbers this season, but this year is the only year in his career that he's had reverse-platoon numbers.)
Chen then took a 1-1 pitch the other way for a soft ground ball in the hole that the third baseman could only get a glove on, but couldn't stop. The ball went into left field and Zagunis scored on a walkoff single that won the title.
For the last time this season, we have highlights.
In tonight's game, Chen was 3 for 5. Caratini was 2 for 3 with a double and the sacrifice fly. Caratini was also named the MVP of the Mills Cup Championship Series.
Soler was 0 for 3 with a walk in his final rehab appearance.
It was the Pelicans first Mills Cup since 2000 and only third in their history. The 1999 Cup was shared between two teams in 1999 after Hurricane Floyd ended the Finals early.
The core of this same team won the Midwest League Title with Kane County last season. Chen and Ben Carhart were on the 2013 Daytona Cubs that won the Florida State League title.
With that, the Cubs minor league season comes to an end. I thank you all for reading and it's been my pleasure to bring it to you. I'm sure we'll do this again next year. Let's hope there are more titles.