Welcome your 2015 Carolina League Champion Myrtle Beach Pelicans! In their first year as a Cubs affiliate, Myrtle Beach ended up with the best regular season record at 81-57 and went through the playoff 5-1, sweeping the Wilmington Blue Rocks 3-0 in the title series to claim the Mills Cup.
The deciding game three was not without its drama as the Pelicans had dominant pitching by Duane Underwood Jr. and clutch hitting from Pin-Chieh Chen and Victor Caratini.
High Class–A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Returning home after squeezing out two victories in Wilmington, the Pelicans seemed poised to become Carolina League Champions as they started out hot again. Chesny Young (1-for-4) and Pin-Chieh Chen (3-for-5 with an RBI) led off the first with singles. Sacrifice flies by Jorge Soler (0-for-3 with a walk) and Victor Caratini (2-for-3 with a double and an RBI) brought in Young. Gleyber Torres (0-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base) walked with two outs in the second, stole second and scored on a double by Danny Lockhart (1-for-4 with a double and an RBI). That made the score 2-0 Myrtle Beach.
On the mound, starter Duane Underwood Jr. looked a little out of sorts, as he worked out of a jam in the second inning, but allowed an earned run in the third inning. Underwood then settled down as he struck out five consecutive batters and held the Blue Rocks. Exiting after six innings, Underwood allowed an earned run on five hits while striking out seven. Underwood threw 85 pitches, 54 for strikes.
David Garner took over in the seventh and had trouble locating his fastball, issuing two one out walks. Relying mainly on his slider, Garner induced a line out and then struck out four batters to keep the score at 2-1 through eight innings.
Reliable closer David Berg came on in the ninth to cap the game, but gave up the first two hits he surrendered in the entire series to allow Wilmington to tie the game at two with the bottom of the Pelicans order due up in the ninth.
Mark Zagunis (1-for-4) started the ninth with a single, and Jason Vosler (0-for-3 with a walk) drew a walk. Torres sacrificed the runners over, but Lockhart popped out to bring up the league’s leading hitter, Chesny Young. The Blue Rocks wanted no part of Young, as he was intentionally walked to get to the hot hitting Chen. On a 3-2 count, Chen squibbed a ground ball between third and short that could not be handled, scoring Zagunis with the game winner.
Victor Caratini was named the Mills Cup MVP as he went 7-for-11 with four doubles, and four RBI. Caratini also made a critical defensive play in game three, throwing out a base runner in the fifth inning.
Winning the Mills Cup capped a season in which Myrtle Beach dominated the Carolina League. The Pelicans had the best overall record at 81-57 and led the league in both ERA and WHIP. The Myrtle Beach defense was outstanding, leading the circuit in fielding percentage and fewest errors, a full 30 less than the second place team. The Pelicans were also second in runs scored and RBI, while coming in third in batting average and home runs.
The championship was the second straight manager Mark Johnson and the players of Myrtle Beach, who won the Midwest League Championship last year as the Kane County Cougars. Since coming together in the Arizona Rookie League in 2012, this group of players has had four straight playoff appearances, including the last three in the title series, and has gone 11-4 in the post-season.