09/12/04 — Minor leagues -- K-Tribe reaches Mills Cup Championship

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Minor leagues -- K-Tribe reaches Mills Cup Championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 12, 2004 2:00 AM

KINSTON -- There's no place like home.

J.D. Martin carried a perfect game through seven innings and Kinston held on in the ninth for a wild 3-1 win against Winston-Salem in the deciding game three of the South Division Championship Series on Friday night at historic Grainger Stadium.

After losing game one of the SDCS in Winston-Salem Wednesday, the Indians rebounded with a pair of wins at home to win the series 2-1 and earn a trip to the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship Series against the Wilmington Blue Rocks beginning Saturday in Kinston. The triumph also provided the Indians some revenge for Winston-Salem's sweep in the 2003 playoffs.

A night after Adam Miller dominated the Warthogs for six innings, Martin (1-0) was even better. He tied a season-high with seven strikeouts, and faced the minimum 24 hitters through his eight innings of work. The only hit he allowed was a bloop single by Josh Shaffer to open the eighth, and Martin then responded by starting a 1-6-3 double play just three pitches later to erase the runner.

Meanwhile, the Kinston offense broke through once and for all in the bottom of the fifth.

Jonathan van Every led off with a ground-rule double, and Nathan Panther then put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move van Every to third. After Luis Cotto walked, Eider Torres followed with a chopper to the right side to plate van Every. That extended the inning for Brad Snyder, who hammered a 1-0 offering from Warthogs starter Kenny Ray (0-1) over the wall in right for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.

Martin made that cushion hold up for his eight innings, and closer Todd Pennington got the first two outs in the ninth before the wheels almost fell off. Wally Rosa doubled down the left field line with two away, and that extended Winston-Salem's season for Andy Gonzalez. With the count full and the Warthogs down to their final strike, Gonzalez took what looked like strike three but was instead called ball four to put men on first and second. Tommy Nicholson then walked on four pitches to load the bases, and Casey Rogowski took another borderline ball four on a 3-2 pitch as Pennington forced in a run.

With the tying run in scoring position, Indians manager Torey Lovullo had seen enough. He called on lefthander Juan Lara out of the bullpen, and pinch-hitter Gustavo Molina flied out to van Every in left for the elusive 27th out.

Snyder picked up his first two hits and RBI of the postseason, and Torres drove in a run for the second straight game. Lara, who pitched in all three games of the series, earned his first save in the playoffs.

The best-of-five Mills Cup Championship Series continues today at 5 p.m. before shifting to Wilmington for games three, four and five. Tickets are available for both home games, and may be reserved by phone or in person. For more information, please call the Indians at (252) 527-9111.