Audio: Braves are the champions
Audio: Cousins forces extra innings
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Considering the way their season started, the Mississippi Braves had no trouble working a little overtime to win the first championsip in team history.
J.C. Holt raced home on a throwing error in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday as the Braves captured the Southern League title with a 3-2 win over the Carolina Mudcats at Trustmark Park.
It was the team's first championship since moving from Greenville, S.C., four years ago. All three victories in the best-of-5 series came in extra innings.
"This was awesome," Holt said. "The first half of the season, we didn't do a lot of things right and we always played close games and made things interesting. I couldn't be more proud of the guys who stepped up."
The Braves opened the season 2-13 and wound up 6-20 in April. But they won nine of their final 11 games and swept Birmingham in the South Division Championship Series. Mississippi was two outs away from elimination in Game 4 of the Finals before Jordan Schafer homered in the 11th. J.C. Boscan delivered a long walk-off single two innings later.
Carolina was three outs away from a loss in Game 5 when Scott Cousins led off the ninth with his third postseason homer and second in as many nights. It came off Southern League Pitcher of the Year Todd Redmond, who was making his second relief appearance of the season.
In the Braves' 10th, Holt and Matt Young singled with one out off Jeff Gogal (0-1), who was relieved by Chris Mobley. With Reid Gorecki at the plate, Mobley uncorked a wild pitch. Catcher Brad Davis retrieved the ball but bounced his throw to second base, and Holt scampered all the way home to win it.
"When the pitch skipped away and I went to third, I took a hard turn," Holt said. "When I saw the throw to second short-hop, I said to myself, 'I'm going.' There was no throw home.
"We scored the winning run by being aggressive like we were all year," added Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman. "I am absolutely elated for these kids. They're really resilient and it's a testament to the fact that they play the game as a team."
Braves first baseman Kala Ka'aihue, who hit three homers in Finals and batted .364 for the postseason, was named Most Valuable Player.
Mississippi took a 1-0 lead in the first on Ka'aihue's RBI single to center. The Mudcats tied it in the second on Lee Mitchell's run-scoring double, but the Braves reclaimed the lead in the fifth when Matt Young plated Holt with an infield hit.
Another factor in the deciding game was defense. The Braves turned four double plays.
"The double plays were huge," Wellman said. "Every time we were in trouble, it seemed we were able to turn a double play."
Luis Valdez (2-0) fanned one and walked one over 1 1/3 hitless frames for the win.
Gogal surrendered one unearned run on two hits and a walk without a strikeout over 1 1/3 innings to take the loss.
Alan Friedman 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.