Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Pelicans clinch first-half title, make playoffs for 5th straight season

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have made a tradition out of reaching the playoffs.

And the club did it once again Saturday.

Although Myrtle Beach lost the first game of a doubleheader to Lynchburg 2-0 Saturday, the Salem Red Sox fell to Winston-Salem 8-2 and the Pelicans clinched a spot in the Carolina League playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. However, it was the club’s first as a member of the Chicago Cubs after switching affiliations during the offseason.

“It’s exciting to be in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year,” said Myrtle Beach president and general manager Andy Milovich, whose club was a member of the Texas Rangers for the last four seasons. “We focus on trying to put together a first-class product from an entertainment standpoint, an on-field standpoint and the move to the Cubs was all about the quality of the farm system, the quality of the organization and what they bring to the table on the field and from a marketing standpoint. You look around and see all the Cubs hats and see the success on the field and clearly it was a great move and one we couldn’t have been more excited to have made.”

Myrtle Beach won the nightcap of the doubleheader 5-4.

Nineteen of the players on the Pelicans’ Opening Day roster played for Kane County at some point last year. Myrtle Beach first-year manager Mark Johnson led that team to a Midwest League championship and the best record in minor league baseball while also being named as the 2014 Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America.

A big part of the team’s success has been a culmination of good pitching a timely hitting. Duane Underwood (6-2, 1.85 ERA) and Jonathan Martinez (5-1, 2.62 ERA) both made the Carolina League all-star game. Meanwhile, Mark Zagunis – who leads the Carolina League with a .444 on-base percentage – is batting .322 in 62 games and was also named to the all-star team along with teammate Jeimer Candelario, who was a late addition to the game.

Another big contributor to the Pelicans’ success is their leading hitter Chesny Young, who has a .364 average in 35 games since a call-up from Low-A South Bend.

“This is a really good club. The nucleus of this club was the Kane County team last year that had the best record in all of Minor League Baseball,” Milovich said. “Certainly Mark Johnson is an incredible manager and does a great job of putting the team together and getting them ready to play every day. We knew we would be really strong defensively, really strong from a pitching standpoint and we seem to get key offensive contributions at the right time. It’s a fun team to watch; they play great baseball and it’s a reflection of Mark Johnson as a manager and the Cubs’ system as a whole.”

And Milovich is enjoying the affiliation with the club he watched and was a fan of growing up. Also, the team is drawing Cubs fans from all around the country.

“I think it’s a fantastic choice,” he said. “You look at the number of Cubs fans here in the ballpark that are coming on a regular basis and it’s just a great fit. We’re still looking to grow the travel and tourism from the midwest where the Cubs are kings and it’s a perfect fit. We’re really excited to be a part of the Cubs family and will continue to [make] them proud.”

Contact MAX McKINNON at 626-0302 or on Twitter @mmckinnonTSN.