Joe Smith was relied upon during the playoffs
The Zephyrs made it through the first round of Pacific Coast League playoffs with a 3-1 series win over the Nashville Sounds. They next squared off against the Sacramento River Cats with the league title on the line. Here is a run down of the PCL Championship Series.
Game 1: Sacramento 5 – New Orleans 3
For the Zephyrs, their return to the final round of the PCL season was its second in its history and first since they were designated champions in the shortened series of 2001 post-season. They entered their matchup against Sacramento fresh off a series against Nashville in which they gave up nine runs in four games.
In the series opener, the Zephyrs sent Adam Bostick, their 24-year-old left-hander, to get the team kick-started. He got off to a rocky start after he allowed single runs in the first and second inning off to Sacramento catcher Jeremy Brown and first basemen Brant Colamarino
David Newhan cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth inning with the first of his two home runs in the game—Newhan went 3-for-4. In the fifth inning, Jason Alfaro scored off River Cats’ starter Shane Komine. Komine worked six strong innings, surrendering two earned runs on four hits while striking out four and walking two.
Sacramento went ahead in the seventh inning as they pushed two runs across the plate off Ryan Cullen and Jon Adkins, both of whom registered just two outs. A single by centerfielder Nick Blasi, followed by Lou Merloni reaching on Anderson Hernandez’s error, led to two runs after Jorge Piedra slapped a two-run single.
At 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, David Newhan once again shortened the lead after he poked his second round-tripper of the night.
Eddie Camacho cleaned up for Adkins in the eighth. It was his third scoreless appearance of the playoffs. In a one-run game in the top of the ninth, Joe Smith entered the game but gave up a run on two hits and a walk.
It was Ryan Cullen’s second loss of the playoffs. After game one, Newhan was 7-for-11 in three post-season games.
Bostick went six sharp innings as well, giving up two earned runs on just two hits, walking three and tallying nine strikeouts.
Game 2: Sacramento 3 – New Orleans 2
Dave Williams put the Zephyrs in a great situation to win for his second straight post-season start. In his series opening start against Nashville, he went 6.1 innings and gave up one earned run on three hits. He took it a step further in his start against the River Cats when he pitched 7.2 strong innings, again giving up just one earned run on three hits, striking out seven. Williams gave up a first inning home run to Lou Merloni but buckled down as he progressed through the game.
New Orleans got right to work in the bottom of the first inning. Anderson Hernandez cracked a leadoff single off Sacramento starter Michael Madsen and quickly scored when Fernando Tatis raked a double. Two batters later, Tatis scored when Andy Tracy hit an RBI single.
Williams and Madsen traded zeros deep into the game until the bullpens took over. After entering the game in the eighth inning, Carlos Muniz returned to the mound for the ninth inning. However, with one out, Jorge Piedra came knocking again, swatting a go-ahead home run. Brant Colmarino extended the Zephyrs’ trouble in the ninth with a single and he would score when Brian Stavisky cranked a run-scoring double off the glove of Chip Ambres, resulting in an error and giving the River Cats the lead for good.
Zephyrs players struck out nine times against three Sacramento pitchers. Ryan Cullen appeared in his fifth straight game. Muniz had been perfect in three innings in the post-season before this appearance. Jesus Feliciano had two outfield assists.
Game 3: Sacramento 4 – New Orleans 3
Like the series before, Jason Vargas followed Dave Williams, but this time around, he was pitching to save the Zephyrs’ season. Down 2-0 in the series, his team desperately needed a dynamite outing while the offense aimed to get the bats going. Vargas breezed through the game’s first three innings but ran into a buzzsaw in the fourth inning.
Again it was Jorge Piedra who got things started with a walk. After a Sacramento single, Brant Colamarino stung again, this time a two-RBI double, lifting his squad to a 2-0 lead. Then, the Zephyrs defense opened further wounds. Jeremy Bloom scored when Anderson Hernandez misplayed Stavisky’s groundball. Vargas did not help his own cause when an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt allowed Stavisky to score, making it a 4-0 game.
River Cats’ starter Brad Knox cruised through the first seven innings until the eighth inning when the New Orleans clawed back when six outs from their season’s termination. With one swing of the bat, Fernando Tatis brought his team within one run when he smacked a three run homer, finishing Knox’s night.
However, the push came up short as River Cats’ reliever Jerry Blevins came into the game threw a perfect 1.1 innings to end New Orleans’ season and clinch the championship sweep for Sacramento.
Joe Smith struck out the side in the seventh inning, while Eddie Camacho pitched a perfect eighth inning. David Newhan’s two-home run effort in game one was the sole multi-hit game by any Zephyr in the series.
In a dramatic season for this veteran team, the Zephyrs fought to the bitter end. With strong pitching throughout the post-season, the offense just did not provide enough support as they lost the three games to Sacramento by a combined four runs.