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09/17/2006 5:51 PM ET
Sea Dogs capture first Eastern League crown
Hansack leads Portland to win over Akron prior to big-league callup
The Sea Dogs avenged last year's loss to the Aeros for their first Eastern League title. (Stewart Smith Photography)


PORTLAND, Maine -- Devern Hansack referred to it as the best day of his life, and it's hard to argue with the 28-year-old native of Nicaragua.

Leading Portland to the Eastern League championship on Sunday afternoon then topping that off with a personal invite from Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to join Boston after the game is certainly going to be tough to beat.

Hansack pitched eight solid innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits while striking out eight to get the win in the Sea Dogs' 8-5 win over visiting Akron in Game 5 at Hadlock Field.

Not long after the celebration spilled from the field into the locker room, Sea Dogs manager Todd Claus called Hansack into his office where Epstein shared the news over the phone.

"To win a championship and get the call to the big leagues -- I'm very excited about that," Hansack said. "It's probably the happiest day of my life."

Portland's offense gave the right-hander an early comfortable lead after roughing up Aeros starter Ronald "Bear" Bay, who made the surprise start in place of Akron ace Adam Miller, for eight runs -- six earned -- in three innings.

"Bear was good the first inning, but then he started to get some balls up in the zone," Aeros manager Tim Bogar said. "Once that happened, he got behind and had to throw strikes."

The Sea Dogs jumped on Bay early, scoring four runs in the second and third. Brian Myrow put Portland on the board with a two-run homer in the second and Keoni De Renne blew the game open the next inning with a three-run triple.

"It was a sigh of relief for us [to find out Miller wasn't pitching]," De Renne said. "We know how good Miller is. We hit him last time, but you never know. He's a gamer."

Right-handed reliever J.D. Martin came in for Bay in the fourth, holding the Sea Dogs hitless for four innings as the Aeros tried to play catch-up.

"We have a great lineup," Martin said. "I wanted to hold [Portland] there and just give us a chance to come back."

But that was a tough task against Hansack, the Sea Dogs ace who earned the win in Game 1 before wrapping up the series with Sunday's victory.

"Going into the game, [Akron] still had the momentum and the confidence," Claus said. "But from strike one from Hansack, the momentum quickly changed."

Staked to a seven-run lead by the fourth, Hansack was not fazed by a pair of RBI groundouts by Trevor Crowe in the third and fifth and a solo home run by Shaun Larkin to lead off the seventh.

With two outs and a five-run lead in the eighth, Claus was loudly booed as he walked out to the mound to check on Hansack, who'd never pitched into the eighth in his career.

After a few moments, Claus walked back to the dugout by himself, Hansack having convinced the skipper to leave him in. The crowd of 3,937 cheered, and the noise got even louder when Hansack struck out Brad Snyder looking to end the eighth.

With the win, Portland captured its first championship in its 13-year history -- but not before enduring yet another late Aeros rally.

Leading in the ninth, 8-3, Sea Dogs right-hander John Searles gave up a leadoff double to Pat Osborn. With one out, Ivan Ochoa plated Osborn with his second triple of the day. Ochoa finished 3-for-4 on the afternoon.

Wyatt Toregas followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Ochoa as Akron inched within three runs before Crowe flew out to left field to end the game. Left fielder Chris Durbin squeezed the ball in his glove for the final out, and the celebration began.

Sea Dogs players threw their gloves up in the air in celebration and many even tossed their sweaty caps into the stands. Before bottles of champagne were brought out, a growing group of giddy players jumped up and down near the mound while passing around the No. 49 jersey of closer Edgar Martinez.

Martinez, who left the team after the second game in Akron to tend to his father's unexpected death back home in Venezuela, was called on the phone in the locker room and put on speaker so he could be part of the celebration.

Stephanie Storm is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.