Omaha takes Triple-A title

When I bought my tickets for the Triple-A Championship back in June, I was praying that Omaha (the KC Royals affiliate) would be playing in that game. Headed into the final week of the regular season, it looked as though my hopes were going to be dashed.

Triple-A ChampionshipFast forward to Tuesday night in Allentown, PA to the home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The Storm Chasers made my wish come true, as they were crowned Triple-A Champions with a 2-1 victory over the International League Champion Durham Bulls. Omaha finished the regular season with a losing record (just 70-74), but got HOT when it mattered most, going 7-1 in the postseason to capture the Pacific Coast League title.

The Triple-A Championship was a matchup of former KC Royals prospect Jake Odorizzi for Durham against Chris Dwyer, who had pitched a total of two innings so far in the postseason.

Odorizzi did not disappoint, as he struck out eight over four innings. However, the Omaha batters had great at-bats to raise his pitch count. Odorizzi actually left losing 1-0, as Lane Adams just missed a home run in the 2nd inning (he reached on a double). Adams came around to score with two outs on a Manny Pina single.

Omaha starter (and MVP) Chris Dwyer in the Triple-A Championship (Jen Nevius)

Omaha starter (and MVP) Chris Dwyer in the Triple-A Championship (Jen Nevius)

The star of the game was Dwyer, as he retired the first 20 batters he faced when Tim Beckham came to the plate with two outs in the 7th inning. Beckham grounded a ball between first and second base to end the perfect game. Dwyer rebounded to strike out the final batter he faced. He also struck out eight, but over seven scoreless innings.

As in most cases of pitchers trying to make history, he received some defensive support, most notably from centerfielder Paulo Orlando. He made a sliding catch in the 5th inning and then ran down a shot in the right centerfield gap hit by Mike Fotenot in the sixth. That was the only inning that the Bulls hit him hard.

Dwyer left the game with a 2-0 lead, as the Storm Chasers tacked on a run in the sixth against IL Pitcher of the Year JD Martin. With two outs, Pina walked and moved to second base on Orlando‘s single (he came up and left runners on base in his previous two at-bats). Irving Falu delivered the eventual game-winner on his third hit of the game.

Then things got interesting as Storm Chasers closer Michael Mariot entered the game in the eighth. He allowed a two out, pinch-hit bomb to Leslie Anderson that cut the lead in half. Anderson‘s home run traveled over everything in right field (the outfield wall and the Coors Light pavilion beyond the wall). It may have even left the entire ballpark it was hit THAT far.

Mariot went back out for the ninth and recorded the first two outs rather easily (a pop up and a ground out). Then he allowed a single and walked Beckham, putting the tying run into scoring position. Omaha went to number two closer Zach Jackson, the side-arming lefty to face Durham’s Vince Belnome. Jackson blew him away to set off the improbable celebration.

 

Shockingly, Dwyer was named the game’s MVP. He received news following the game that he would be called up to the big leagues for the very first time. Falu will also join him heading to Kansas City.

*Following the game for Durham, both Odorizzi and Beckham received big league callups.

 

**Odorizzi was the starting pitcher for the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the first game I ever covered three years ago. It was really cool to get to see him back out on the mound again in his final game of the season in the minor leagues.

Omaha's Brian Sanches during BP at the Triple-A Championship (Jen Nevius).

Omaha’s Brian Sanches during BP at the Triple-A Championship (Jen Nevius).

The game was a big deal for me, getting to see so many guys I have had the chance to cover over the last three seasons. This season, both Adams and reliever Spencer Patton spent the majority of the year with Wilmington (and both were promoted late in the summer to Double-A). Both were added to Omaha’s roster for the postseason.

I have known Brian Sanches since he pitched for Wilmington way back in 2000 when I was a freshman in college. Getting to see him last night and talk to him after the game was pretty sweet (especially hearing his take on the team at the end of the season and their playoff run). Disappointed that the Royals did not call him up, but thrilled with the season he had (some MLB team needs to give him a chance next season).

Omaha does not exactly play games on the East Coast, so last night was pretty special for me, despite the cold temperatures.

 

***Hopefully I will have photos from the game up on the Facebook page by tomorrow.

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