Dae-Eun Rhee pitched six solid innings and the Cubs tallied 13 hits Sunday as they defeated the St. Lucie Mets, 4-2, to sweep the Florida State League Championship Series.
After dropping the first game of the playoffs to Dunedin, the Cubs won five in a row to capture their first title since 2008.
"It feels unbelievable," No. 2 Cubs prospect Matt Szczur said. "Especially coming in the second half and helping these guys out, because they succeeded a lot in the first half. Being able to finish up and finish strong was awesome. And that's what we talked about. ... We wanted to get this win for the guys who have been here all season and for us as well."
Daytona starter Rhee (1-0) allowed two runs on four hits over six innings, striking out five and walking three as he outdueled Florida State League Pitcher of the Year Darin Gorski. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007, the 22-year-old right-hander led Cubs starters with eight wins, a 4.02 ERA and 127 2/3 innings pitched during the regular season. He got the nod in the playoff opener for Daytona, when he yielded just one run over six innings but did not factor into the decision.
"Those guys gave an awesome effort tonight," Szczur said. "The lefty, Gorski, he was Florida State League Pitcher of the Year. We just managed to scrap some runs off him, and Rhee pitched awesome for us."
Aaron Kurcz and closer Frank Batista tossed the final three innings for the Cubs, allowing just one hit as they shut the door on St. Lucie's season.
Greg Rohan led Daytona with a game-high three hits, knocking in the first run of the game with a double in the first. Szczur, who finished the night 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, scored what ultimately turned out to be the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Michael Brenly.
"That run -- you never know," Szczur said. "You just try to score as many runs as possible and give yourself some insurance."
The Cubs ended the regular season with a 76-61 record, falling 1 1/2 games shy of Dunedin for the best mark in the league. After winning the North Divison's first-half title, Daytona stumbled a bit in the second half, going only 29-38.
The Cubs took the championship, however, because of their ability to win close games. Five of their six postseason contests were decided by two runs or fewer, with the team going 4-1 in those games. The only exception was Daytona's Game 2 win over St. Lucie, when the offense erupted for 10 runs.
The title represents the first during the tenure of manager Buddy Bailey, who was hired by the Cubs prior to the 2009 season.
With the season over, Szczur plans to spend some time with family and friends before getting back to baseball.
"I'm just going to take a break, take a couple months off and then head to Arizona in November," he said. "I'll start working out there, where the weather's a little bit warmer, and hopefully kick off the season next year on a good start."