09/16/04 — K-Tribe wins Mills Cup

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K-Tribe wins Mills Cup

Published in Sports on September 16, 2004 1:56 PM

Courtesy Wilmington (Del.) Star-News

WILMINGTON, Del. -- J.D. Martin was overpowering. And the Mills Cup is coming to North Carolina.

Martin pitched a four-hitter as the Kinston Indians shut down the Wilmington Blue Rocks 3-1 Wednesday night at Frawley Stadium to win the Carolina League Championship Series.

It's the first Mills Cup for Kinston since 1995.

The win completed Kinston's comeback as it won three straight games at Frawley in the best-of-five series after losing the first two at home.

Only Donnie Murphy was able to solve Martin, going 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk.

"It's tough to get beat like this, but we lost to a better team," said Rocks manager Billy Gardner Jr. "I think our four and five starters (Mike Stodolka and Jonah Bayliss) were better in Kinston, but their top three outlasted our guys up here."

In fact, Murphy's home run was the only run the Rocks produced against Kinston pitching in the final 23 innings of the series. Starters Brian Slocum on Monday, Adam Miller on Tuesday and Martin on Wednesday -- with help from the bullpen -- were the keys to the K-Tribe's comeback.

"You have to tip your cap to Kinston," Murphy said. "Their pitchers really stepped up the last three games. When you only have to win one game out of three, it's tough to take."

Wednesday night, Kinston broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning to take the lead for good.

After a walk to open the K-Tribe fifth, Luis Cotto laid down a sacrifice bunt toward first. He beat it out for a hit when Rocks starter Devon Lowery and first baseman Damaso Espino hesitated before Espino fielded it. Eider Torres then bunted. Lowery hustled to field the ball, but his throw sailed over Espino's head, allowing two runs to score.

"Devon said the ball slipped out of his hand from the wet surface," said Gardner.

From there, with a two-run lead, Martin took it home.

"I felt as strong as can be all game," said Martin, who was named the most valuable player of the series. "I didn't know if (manager Torey Lovullo) was going to take me out."

Only one other Rock reached base -- Damaso Espino, who singled in the eighth, but was erased on a double play.

"We made some mistakes defensively, but this team has nothing to be ashamed of," Gardner said. "We won the second half going away and had the second-best overall record in the league, next to Kinston.

"This team never gave up all season. I think everybody thought Kinston would be here in the finals, but I don't think too many people thought we would."