In recent years, it hasn't been a Northwest League playoff season if the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes aren't in the mix.
Mike Loree made sure the Volcanoes would have the chance to defend their championship and go for a three-peat by sealing up the Northwest League West Division crown with a 3-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canadians on Tuesday.
Loree (4-3) delivered another big performance, hurling six shutout innings to seal the division.
"He's got to be the best 4-3 pitcher in the history of baseball," Salem-Keizer manager Tom Trebelhorn said. "If we had scored for him a little more, he'd have 10 wins this season, he's been fantastic."
Loree struck out six, walked one and held the Canadians to six hits over six frames to break .500.
"He's terrific, just terrific," said Trebelhorn. "It's amazing to me that he's 4-3, but he won the big one for us tonight."
"I'm very happy with my season," Loree said. "I'm not upset about how many wins I have, I'm just happy we're in the playoffs and we have a chance for a championship."
Salem-Keizer, which has won the last two league crowns, will face the East Division-champion Spokane Indians in a best-of-5 championship playoff series beginning Thursday.
"We played a great game," Loree said. "We worked hard in pre-game and it worked out for us."
Salem-Keizer (40-35) scored early for Loree and didn't look back. Francisco Peguero lined a two-out triple to plate first-round Draft pick Buster Posey for a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Conor Gillaspie added an RBI single in the third and Ryan Lormand capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly that plated Mike Loberg an inning later.
"Once we got on the board, I was really concentrating on keeping them off the bases," Loree said.
The Volcanoes managed only four hits, but it was enough.
"The way things were going, I knew it'd be tight as could be," said Trebelhorn, who watched his club drop three straight entering Tuesday. "Fortunately [Eric] Stolp came in and pitched well, [Aaron] King came in and got a big out and [Edwin] Quirarte finished it off."
The Volcanoes bullpen took over where Loree left off in the seventh. Stolp allowed just two hits over 1 1/3 frames before King came on and struck out Jeremy Barfield to end the eighth. Quirarte struck out the side in the ninth for his 14th save, second in the league to Vancouver's Jose Guzman. The bullpen struck out the final five batters it faced to seal the win.
"We were able to make the big plays," Trebelhorn said. "We were lucky, and I've always said, the better you play, the luckier you are."
Loree allowed four runs in four innings Aug. 13 in his last start against Vancouver. Things were decidedly different Tuesday.
"I'm definitely more effective when I keep the ball down, so I wanted to keep it down tonight and have a chance to be successful," he said. "Last time, I was leaving balls up."
Shawn Haviland (2-3) allowed three runs -- one earned -- on four hits and a walk over six innings to suffer the loss for Vancouver (33-42).
Many of San Francisco's top draft picks did not join the organization in time to log innings with the Volcanoes, so the club relied heavily on callups from their Extended Spring Training program in Arizona.
"I think we took a group of guys who probably, the expectations were not as high for as they had been in the past," Trebelhorn said. "The Giants have put some good teams in here with high draft picks, but this year we were without six young guys that normally would be here."
Posey, the fifth-overall pick in June, joined the club after winning the Arizona League championship Sunday night. He walked and scored the only run Salem-Keizer needed.
"It's been a great team to work with," Trebelhorn said. "They've gone and done a tremendous job."
Loree said the players feel just as happy to have Trebelhorn in the dugout.
"Playing for Trebs has been awesome," Loree said. "He's a great coach, everyone loves playing for him. When he speaks, everyone is all ears. I've learned so much from him, so it's been a lot of fun. I can't say enough about him."
Trebelhorn said he was slightly worried after three straight losses.
"We let one get away on Saturday, and another on Sunday, and then last night -- Willie Randolph is sitting at home right now for the same reason, and I didn't want to be the West Coast Willie and fade in the stretch," said Trebelhorn, referencing the New York Mets' late season struggles last year. "We've been in the control all year. But we pulled it out, so onward and upward."
Struggles aside, Trebelhorn said he liked to be able to let Loree get the job done.
"It was comforting to have him," said Trebelhorn of the three-time Pitcher of the Week. "I wanted to save him for Spokane, but we didn't have that luxury, we had to win. To have him ready at a critical time in a big game, it was reassuring. He's certainly answered the call and done a great job for us."
Trebelhorn said the team didn't celebrate the division clinching too much.
"It's no big deal, this is a division that we semi-backed into," he said. "We're not overly excited, but we're delighted. We can play better. We'll loosen up a bit, get on the bus and have some fun in Spokane."
The Indians (50-26) have dominated the league all season and will aim to knock off the defending champs.
"They're a tough club," Trebelhorn said. "They've got a nice balance. They've been the best, and this is a great opportunity. Anything can happen now, you never know."
"I'm very excited, it'll be a lot of fun and I'm looking for forward to it," Loree added. "I think everyone is looking forward to it.
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.