WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem Dash had the best record in all of minor league baseball this season.
That accomplishment didn’t do them any good Wednesday night in the opening game of the best-of-three Carolina League Southern Division Championship Series at BB&T Ballpark.
A rare pair of run-scoring triples in the sixth inning – both within four batters of Myrtle Beach’s first hit – powered the Pelicans to a 4-1 win.
The Pelicans need a win in one of the next two games at BB&T Ballpark to eliminate the Dash and advance to the Mills Cup Championship series.
“I know those guys are the best team in the league, but we’ve got a good team, too, and we can play the game,” said Pelicans shortstop Hanser Alberto, who gave his teammates in the third-base dugout a fist-pump following the first triple.
“I was really excited because those guys talk a lot [in the past] about our team. So that’s why we’re excited. We came in here to win tomorrow, too, and go to the championship.”
Odubel Herrera legged out an infield hit in the shortstop hole to break up Dash starter Erik Johnson’s no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning, and Alberto immediately followed with an RBI triple to right-center field.
Johnson was pulled following a pair of walks that loaded the bases, and Tomas Teliz deposited a hanging curveball from reliever Terance Marin into the right field corner for a three-run triple that gave the Pelicans that 4-1 lead.
“This was sort of a scratch and claw win tonight,” Pelicans manager Jason Wood said. “Obviously early we didn’t get anything going offensively. We battled and battled and got two big hits … and with bases loaded Telis came up really aggressive and looking for a pitch to hit and he drove it down the right field line for a triple, and that was the key moment of the night.”
Myrtle Beach played possibly its best game defensively of the season. In an error-free game, Myrtle Beach got diving catches on line drives in the outfield by Santiago Chirino and Chris Grayson, a pair of nice plays by Alberto at shortstop, a bare-handed grab and throw by third baseman Edwin Garcia among two nice plays by him, and a nice play by Herrera on a chopper that required one of several scoops on the night at first base by Brett Nicholas.
“The left fielder made a diving catch, the right fielder made a diving catch, the third baseman makes a nice play on a slow roller and they made five ESPN-type plays on defense,” W-S manager Tommy Thompson said. “We hit the ball at times well but you have to give them credit, they made five big-time plays defensively and they pitched well.”
Myrtle Beach starter Luke Jackson matched Johnson early, and the pitchers’ duel was interrupted in the bottom of the fifth by a home run to left-center field by 18-year-old Courtney Hawkins, the Chicago White Sox’s 2012 first-round pick out of high school in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Jackson allowed three hits and the run while striking out eight in five innings, and relievers Phil Klein, Jimmy Reyes and Ben Rowen combined to allow just two hits without a walk in the final four innings.
“I don’t think Luke had his best stuff on the mound, but he pitched good enough to keep us where we needed to be. And hats off to the bullpen,” Wood said. “We talked about it earlier in the day that defense and good pitching is going to do it for us. That’s what got us here all year so hopefully we keep that up.”
The winner of the series will face the Lynchburg-Wilmington winner at home Saturday and Sunday in the first two games of the best-of-five Mills Cup championship series. The final games of the series will be played at the Northern Division champion’s park beginning Tuesday.
The Dash finished the season 87-51-1 and won both the first- and second-half Carolina League Southern Division titles. The Pelicans were 74-65 and qualified for the playoffs as the Southern Division’s second half runner-up.
Myrtle Beach struggled down the stretch, however, particularly on the road, where it won just two of its final 10 and six of its last seven regular-season games.
That, also, meant little Wednesday.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.