Sep 172010
 

The action came early, but the suspense lasted all night long as the Potomac Nationals edged the Winston-Salem Dash 2-1 to win the 2010 Carolina League Championship.

Facing the most potent lineup in the Carolina League, nobody (*ahem*) thought that a pitcher’s duel could be possible in this series, much less the deciding game. But baseball is a game that both defies and fulfills expectations in ways that can be sensed, but never predicted.

Francisco Soriano led off the bottom of the first with a walk, took second on a grounder to third, took third on a grounder to second. Up came Tyler Moore, who drove in Soriano with Texas-Leaguer to left field for the first run of the game. Two innings later, Soriano would triple down the right field line and score on a tapper to first off the bat of Bill Rhinehart for a 2-0 lead that Potomac would build on methodically as the night would progress.

They did not.

There were baserunners in every single inning from the 4th to the 8th, most notably a one-out bomb by Tyler Moore to deep right-center, but against the most potent lineup in the Carolina League (or at least the most potent that they could face) the 2-0 lead seemed far too close for comfort.

Sure enough, Winston-Salem answered the second Potomac run in inglorious fashion, a tapper back to the mound that starter (and winner) Marcos Frias bounced off the shoulder of Jon Gilmore for a two-base error. Cleanup hitter Seth Loman cashed in the opportunity with a sharp single to left that cut the deficit to 2-1 — what you know to be final score, but the crowd of nearly 2,000 did not.

Frias would pitch five innings total, allowing the lone, unearned Winston-Salem run, on four hits and no walks, while striking out four. Joe Testa would follow him with a 2⅔ innings of hitless and scoreless relief, walking one and striking out two. Zach Dials would follow for a four-out save, finishing the 2010 postseason with his second save and a 1.29 ERA.

The win secured Potomac its second championship in three seasons, but one that was far more satisfying to see than the previous because it was so unforeseen and so unlikely, given the offensive struggles in the first half and the tendency of the front office to demote rather than promote to replenish the roster.

And for a few, there’s the hope of more… heading to Harrisburg next season, and perhaps Syracuse the year after. But for some, this is the pinnacle of their professional baseball career, if not the end of it in affiliated baseball. As they did in 2008, some will snort and sniff about the advanced age of this team and dismiss their success. And those folks… well, you can just kiss my ass because damn, it was fun to watch.

  11 Responses to “Potomac wins Carolina League Championship”

  1. Congratulations, Sue, sure am glad your prediction for this series was totally wrong. Sue, you know this more than I, but isn’t this team younger than two years ago?

    • Pretty similar, actually. Both teams had 22/23-y.o. SPs with 24/25-y.o. RPs.
      It’s hard to compare them because that team used 70 players and had a *lot* of roster churn whereas this team was relatively more stable. What makes this team seem a little younger is the four 21-year-olds, which were offset by the four 26-year-olds. But that’s not all that different than King (21 that Oct.) and Burgess (20 that Oct.) starting alongside Brown (26 that Oct.) and Martinez (26 in Sept.)

  2. Outstanding! And it’s actually starting to look like there are more players coming up in the system then those who would be pushed down, as well as a renewed MWA. We’ll have enjoyable baseball in Woodbridge for another 4 years.

  3. Sue, when I saw the tweet that I believe you are alluding to it was all I could do to stay classy and not reply something that I would not be proud of. Yes, age matters but this team got to the playoffs offensively behind Moore and Norris primarily. Moore pretty much carried them on his back offensively in the second half. Yeah, I know that Rhinehart and Rooney were key pieces but another difference is that this team could have been much younger had Lombardozzi, Burgess and Peacock remained down in Potomac. They were called up to Harrisburg so late that you have to consider this championship partly there’s as well.

    One real solid piece that I may work on would be a comparison between the 2008 and 2010 rosters to see whether this one has a better prospect pool or not.

    • When I wrote this last night, I hadn’t seen that tweet, but I knew something like it was coming. I stand by my response because, well, it’s true. Besides, he probably thought he was being witty, but he was only half-right.

      That’s an interesting concept (’08 vs. ’10) but it’s also a tough call because five of those 70 guys have already made it the majors (all pitchers).

    • Souldrummer, Sue: If I might join in here… That was just one of the voices that seem to get more pleasure from bashing the team/organization than they ever could by just breaking character occaisionally to enjoy the moment. We don’t need (or want) 100% ‘pollyanna’s” blogging or posting about the organization, but the one-note, glass constantly less than full group can get tiresome.

  4. Great coverage, Sue. Way to go, P-Nats!

    In particular, congrats to Bill Rhinehart. His prospect status may have faded, but his second half rebound was a big part of this championship.

  5. I am so happy for the P-Nats. Got a lot of help from a bunch of former Suns players. Who cares if they are old, who cares if they can’t hit, etc. A win is a win!!

  6. Sue,

    Going forward will this blog cover the Instructional League and AFL and all things NATS minor league in the absence of NFA or will Soul Drummer do that or some combo thereof? Also has any thought been given to who, if anyone, will take custody of the Big Board and Draft track?

    • Souldrummer and I have discussed a few things offline and I’ve had some discussions with Brian and others regarding the Big Board and Draft track. There isn’t a formal plan in place but I will do what I can to provide coverage. Working on a final FIL article right now…

  7. way to go Marco and Francisco, you are both classy young men and deserve the sucess you saw in the championships.

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