Only one game left in the minor league season, so . . .
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans won their second consecutive Mills Cup as the Champions of the Carolina League by defeating the Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians), 5-3, thus winning the best-of-five series 3 games to 1. It’s the second title in the two seasons the Pelicans have been a Cubs minor league affiliate.
Things didn’t look good early as starter Preston Morrison struggled. Morrison gave up a run in the bottom of the first and a two-run home run to Francisco Mejia (the guy who had the 50-game hitting streak) in the third. After that, manager Buddy Bailey had seen enough of Morrison and pulled him after three innings. The final line on Morrison was three runs on seven hits over three innings. Morrison struck out four and walked no one.
Bailey called on James Pugliese to start the fourth inning and Pugliese was nothing short of terrific. Pugliese retired the first 13 batters he faced including a stretch when he struck out six in a row. He was pulled after he gave up a one-out double in the eighth inning that was actually a pop up to the shortstop that got lost in the lights. Pugliese got the win after 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing just the one hit. He struck out seven.
After Tommy Thorpe retired the final two batters of the eighth inning, closer Ryan McNeil came on to pitch the ninth. McNeil walked the first batter he faced, but then got a ground ball force at second base and two swinging strikeouts to end the game and clinch the championship.
The Pelicans took a temporary 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning when Eloy Jimenez singled home Charcer Burks after David Bote was intentionally walked to face Jimenez. Then Bote scored on an booted ground ball to third base.
The Pelicans trailed 3-2 after the Mejia home run until the top of the seventh when the Pelicans plated three runs. Once again, Burks started the rally by walking to lead off the inning and then Donnie Dewees and Bote both singled to load the bases with no outs.
Burks would tie the game on a wild pitch and then after Jimenez struck out, Dewees scored the go-ahead run on a single by Bryant Flete. Bote added an insurance run when he scored from third on another Hillcats error.
Burks was 0 for 3 with two walks and two runs scored tonight. Dewees was 3 for 5. Bote was 2 for 4 with a walk and Jimenez went 2 for 5. Flete was 1 for 4 with a walk.
Here’s the last out, courtesy of Ryan McNeil:
With that, the Pelicans became the first team to win undisputed back-to-back Carolina League Titles since the Winston-Salem Spirits in 1985-86. That team was also a Cubs affiliate. The 1985 team had Jamie Moyer, Damon Berryhill and Dave Martinez on it while the 1986 team had Les Lancaster, Rick Wrona, Doug Dascenzo and Hector Villanueva.
It should be noted that ten players on the Pelicans, including Duane Underwood Jr, Jeffrey Baez, Daury Torrez and James Pugliese, have now won their third consecutive title, having been on Kane County in 2014 and the Pelicans last season as well as this team.
With that, another minor league season comes to an end. It was another successful year as two Cubs affiliates won titles and the farm system still is producing talent at the major league level.
I thank you all for reading me over the past five months. It’s a lot of work and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t know that people were reading it and appreciating it.
I also want to thank all of the broadcasters and media relations people with the Cubs five farm systems affiliates. They make it possible for me to do my job every day despite not getting to see more than two or three road games in person.
I’m not going anywhere. I’ll probably take this weekend off as much as I can, but next week I’ll cover the World Baseball Classic qualifiers and come October, there’s the Arizona Fall League. Also, Al is giving me a September call up and I’ll be writing on the major league team through the playoffs. The Emeralds and Pelicans have gotten it started, now it’s time for the major league team to finish it.
So once again, congratulations to the Emeralds and the Pelicans on their titles. We’ll do this again next April. Until then, this is next year.