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Mason pitches Biscuits past Stars09/15/2007 1:43 AM ET
By Danny Wild / Special to MLB.com
Chris Mason pitched six shutout innings Friday as the Montgomery Biscuits topped the Huntsville Stars, 4-1, in Game 3 of the Southern League Championship Series.
Mason (1-0) scattered eight hits and three walks with six strikeouts. It was another clutch performance for the Southern League Pitcher of the Year as the Biscuits won their second straight to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series. Game 4 is Saturday, when the Biscuits can become the league's first repeat champions since 1977.
"I was just making key pitches in key moments," said Mason, who got a pair of inning-ending double plays and escaped a jam in the third with a play at the plate. "I got into trouble in every inning, but I was making good pitches in good situations. I got out of it and I had a lot of luck with me."
The 23-year-old right-hander went 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA in the regular season and won both of his starts against the Stars, allowing an unearned run over 13 frames. Mason said his key to beating Huntsville was his nasty slider away to right-handers.
"They have a lot of right-handed hitters, so [the slider] is very effective," he said. "I show them in, work it away and it's been working all year and that's what I've been sticking to. My best pitcher is my slider, which was really effective."
Evan Meek gave up one hit -- Brendan Katin's one-out solo homer in the ninth -- and struck out six in three innings for his first playoff save. He also fanned Steve Moss before catcher John Jaso threw him out at first on a dropped third strike to seal the victory.
"[Meek] was very impressive. He reached 101 mph on the scoreboard," Mason said. "Our bullpen has been lights-out here lately. The bullpen shut them down and that's really good. Everything is working right now."
Montgomery took a 3-0 lead in the second when Gabriel Martinez walked, Sergio Pedroza singled and Fernando Perez ripped a two-run base hit up the middle. Josh Asanovich plated Erold Andrus with a grounder to second to cap the frame.
"When you get up 3-0, its feel more comfortable out there," Mason said. "You can make a mistake then. It's a lot more relaxing like that."
Huntsville stranded a pair in the second, but the Biscuits wasted no time in extending their lead in the third. Chris Nowak, who homered in Thursday's win, crushed a leadoff blast, his third of the playoffs.
"The fourth run made it better," Mason said. "I tried to get the leadoff batter every inning. Everything worked out perfectly."
Nowak, Pedroza and Andrus each went 2-for-4 with a run scored as Montgomery totaled nine hits.
Mason surrendered five runs on seven hits with five strikeouts over four innings in his last postseason start on Sept. 8 against Mississippi, a 6-5 walk-off win.
"That was pretty rough, I was due for a bad one," he said. "That's baseball, it catches up with itself. Everything catches up with itself and it worked itself out tonight. I try to keep the ball down, try to control the game and let our hitter score some runs, get a win."
Huntsville starter Derek Miller (0-1) was roughed up for four runs on five hits in three innings. The left-hander, who tossed 13 scoreless innings to close the regular season, struck out three and walked two.
The Stars nearly scored in the second when Steven Sollmann was nailed at home by Perez with two outs. Sollmann and Mat Gamel lined consecutive singles before Moss singled to center, only to watch Perez throw a strike to the plate to Jaso, who made the tag to keep the shutout intact.
"I tried to get in, should have thrown another slider, instead I got it up and in," Mason said of the third single of the inning. "Fernando got it home, it was a close play. He was out, he came up yelling, but he was out. It was a big play, I got really lucky again."
Gamel, Katin and Hernan Iribarren each had two hits, but Adam Heether hit into double plays in the first and third as the Stars left eight men on base.
"I was in trouble every time he was up," Mason said of Heether. "I threw him some sliders, fastballs away and got the double play twice."
Montgomery's Mike Prochaska (7-7, 3.89) will look to clinch the series in Game 4, while Huntsville's Lindsay Gulin (12-6, 3.29) will look to keep the Stars' season alive.
"We need to keep doing it, do it again tomorrow and be Southern League champs," Mason said. "It's very exciting. I've been on a couple championship teams, but I've never won the big game. It's really fun, its just so much fun. Your intensity is up, you've come and played 145 games, you're giving it everything you got, and it's just really fun."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.