Columbus Clips Chasers in Triple-A Title Game
PCL Champion Omaha can’t capitalize on early 3-0 lead, drops season finale
Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the ice cream sundae of a Pacific Coast League Championship already served, the Omaha Storm Chasers fell just short of putting the cherry on top in a 8-3 loss to the Columbus Clippers Tuesday night in Albuquerque. The Cleveland Indians’ affiliate won its second-straight Triple-A National Championship Game, rallying from an early 3-0 hole to cruise to victory.
The one-game, nationally-televised playoff showcase started out well for Omaha, but the offense and pitching stalled out after a first-inning display reminiscent of performances throughout this year’s championship run.
Irving Falu got things started with a one-out walk in the first, followed by a single by David Lough to put two runners on. Lorenzo Cain then drilled a two-run triple to the right-center gap, his third three-base hit of the postseason to the exact same spot on the field. One out later, John Whittleman came through with an RBI single in his first playoff at-bat, giving the Chasers a 3-0 advantage.
Omaha starter Sean O’Sullivan (0-1, postseason) retired the side in order in the bottom half of the first, but ran into trouble in his next two frames, allowing six runs on six hits. The big blow was a tape-measure three-run homer by Luke Carlin on a two-strike, two-out pitch in the second, knotting the score at 3-3. O’Sullivan and the Chasers would go on to lose for the first time in the right-hander’s final 10 starts of the season.
Clippers’ right-hander Joe Martinez (3-0, postseason) and reliever Chen Lee held Omaha scoreless on five hits after the early outburst, giving the International League champ’s offense time to tack on insurance runs in the fourth off Willy Lebron and the eighth off Kelvin Herrera. Former first-round draft pick Beau Mills took Herrera deep to start the bottom of the eighth, getting around just enough on a hard fastball to lift it the opposite way over the left field wall.
Lance Zawadzki had another fine offensive showing in the contest, going 2-for-4 to improve his batting average to .444 (8-for-18) in four playoff starts. The Chasers got hits from seven of the nine men in the lineup, with Zawadzki’s performance going down as the only multi-hit contest.
Some 800 miles to the northeast, Storm Chasers’ ace right-hander Luis Mendoza and a handful of 2011 Omaha alumni were busy defeating the A.L. Central champion Detroit Tigers by a score of 10-2 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Mendoza, the PCL Pitcher of the Year and PCL Playoff MVP, earned his first Major League victory since August 3, 2008, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers. He was aided by Chasers’ Opening Day first baseman Eric Hosmer, who went 5-for-5 at the plate with his 18th home run of the season.
Following the game, the Royals announced that six additional members of the 2011 Storm Chasers – Cain, Herrera, O’Sullivan, Jarrod Dyson, Vin Mazzaro and Manny Pina – would be joining the team in Kansas City. The occasion will mark Cain’s first appearance in the majors with the Royals and will be Herrera’s first taste of big-league action after starting the season in Class-A ball.
The PCL Champion Storm Chasers will open their title defense Thursday, April 5, 2012, when they host the Albuquerque Isotopes in the first game of a four-game series in the second full season at Werner Park.