For the past two weeks, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have been trying to be the only Cubs’ affiliate to bring home a playoff trophy. Both the Cubs’ Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Rookie League teams lost in the first round of their playoff series. The Pelicans, who won the first half Southern Division of the Carolina League, had been mulling around since early June knowing they were in the playoffs. Many of the players (17) on the roster won a title with Kane County in 2014 in the Midwest League.
Last week, in the Pelicans’ first round matchup against Winston-Salem, Myrtle Beach struggled in Game One. Dwayne Underwood gave up two home runs in the first inning and the Pelicans went on to lose the game 4 to 2. The only highlight was an amazing homer by Gleyber Torres for which Evan Altman, who was present for the game, might take credit.
In game two, starter Brad Markey went eight innings, giving up only one hit and one run before the Pelicans, up 4-1, endured a two hour rain delay. This was after Winston-Salem had loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. Pitcher David Berg came in after the delay to save the win, 4-3.
For the crucial and pivotal Game Three on Friday night, pitcher Jonathan Martinez held down Winston-Salem as Victor Caratini drove in three and the Pelicans clinched a berth in the Mills Cup Championship Series against Wilmington with a second 4-3 win.
Heading into the Mills Cup, the Pelicans were the favorites to win having just taken 3 of 5 at Wilmington in the season-ending series. The Pelicans slated Jen-Ho Tseng to pitch Sunday, Tyler Skulina on Monday, and Duane Underwood at home on Wednesday. If necessary, Brad Markey and Jonathan Martinez were held in reserve for games four and five in the best of five series. Joining the Pelicans for the Mills Cup Championship Series was Cubs’ outfielder Jorge Soler, who was on a rehab assignment.
In the Championship Series, the Pelicans got out in front of Wilmington on Sunday night thanks in part to Jen-Ho Tseng, who went six innings and gave up one run. In the top of the sixth, a series of hits from Pin-Chieh Chen, Jorge Soler, and Mark Zagunis netted two runs. That lead held until the ninth when Jasvir Rakkar broke down and loaded the bases with no outs.
Dave Berg came in and got out of the inning with the game intact, but did allow one run to score and it was charged to Rakkar. In the top of the tenth, Daniel Lockhart ripped a double to start off the inning. This time Myrtle Beach loaded the bases and Victor Caratini drove in the winning run with a single to center. Berg came back out for the tenth and locked it down going 1-2-3.
On Monday, the Pelicans rode the arm of Tyler Skulina, who struck out six in five innings. Daury Torrez shut down Wilmington for two innings, Tyler Ihrig for one, and Berg for one more. Victor Caratini provided 2 RBIs, one in the first and one in the ninth, and that was enough for a 2-0 victory to take a 2-0 lead.
Heading into Wednesday’s game at home, the Pelicans were pretty comfortable with their odds of a sweep as Duane Underwood was slated to pitch. Underwood had only been back for two weeks since a DL stint for elbow inflammation robbed him of playing in July and August. He did not disappoint as he went 6 innings with 7 Ks and only gave up one run. Victor Caratini was again the man of the hour, driving in one run as Daniel Lockhart drove in the other in the second.
David Garner came in to pitch and went two innings, striking out 4. His curveball was especially damning with its vicious 12-6 bite. When the ninth began, out of the bullpen came Dave Berg. After a seeing-eye single, a sac bunt moved the runner over to second. A single soon followed to tie the game at 2.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mark Zagunis worked a walk and Jason Vosler did the same to put two men on with no outs. Gleyber Torres then put down a perfect bunt to move the runners over to second and third. Daniel Lockhart had first crack at driving in Zagunis, now on third. A short fly to center wasn’t deep enough to get the run in, do I t was all up to Chesny Young. Wilmington wasn’t going to take a chance with the Carolina League batting champ and intentionally walked him.
This brought up Pin-Chieh Chen and a new pitcher for Wilmington. With a 1-1 count, Chen hit a slow roller misplayed by the third baseman and shortstop and Zagunis scored for the walkoff 3-2 win!!!
Congratulations go out to the Pelicans players and the organization!
Catcher Victor Caratini was just amazing this postseason, batting .474 with 7 RBIs, and was the Pelicans MVP of the playoffs. It was nice to see him dominate behind and at the plate. As for Jorge Soler, he did score a few runs and had a couple of hits, but he only batted .231 in his short rehab stint.
As bloggers, things could not have been better between the Pelicans and Cubs Insider. Media Relations Director Nathan Barnett greeted us with open arms. I was able to interview Nathan a few times throughout the year and we emailed back and forth several times about prospects going from South Bend to Myrtle Beach.
When Cubs Insider Editor and Lead Writer Evan Altman visited Myrtle Beach, he got to sit in on Nathan’s radio show and also sing the seventh-inning stretch. The Pelicans media relations team has been outstanding in providing emails, recaps, press releases, and photographs on a daily basis. It is a first-class organization and the Cubs should be happy to extend their development deal beyond 2016 and go with a four-year deal to 2020.
Stay tuned for a post on Myrtle Beach’s entire season later this week.