Once the players hit the locker room, the sparkling apple cider flowed freely and the party really started. Players danced as they passed around the silver trophy, others dove head-first and slid from one doorway to another on a slick plastic sheet. Some threw handfuls of ice in between exchanging bear hugs. After all, clinching a Championship Series in front of the home fans is more than a reason to celebrate.
Matt Tracy struck out four batters over six shutout innings and Zach Wilson smacked a solo homer as the Yankees beat the Auburn Doubledays, 2-1, to complete a sweep of the best-of-3 Championship Series.
"This is a great ending to a great season," said Tracy, who improved to 2-0 in the playoffs. "It's a great feeling to pitch in a game that means something against a good team in a close game. This is such a great feeling and it's a good feeling to win this title with this great group of guys."
The victory gave the Yankees' short-season affiliate its sixth championship in 12 years.
The 22-year-old left-hander gave up three hits, fanned four and threw 54 of 83 pitches for strikes. He did not allow a Doubleday to reach third base and retired 14 of his final 15 batters.
Wilson deposited the first pitch he saw from Auburn starter Nathan Karns (0-2) over the left-field fence to give Staten Island a second-inning lead.
Wilson finished second in the league with 10 homers during the regular season, but his blast in the clincher is one he won't forget.
"He had been throwing first-pitch fastballs to a lot of guys, so I was waiting on it," said Wilson, New York's 21st-round pick in this year's Draft. "I knew it was [gone].
"It means a lot to me. It was kind of a nail-biter, with us having a one-run lead from the second inning. And then to get a second in the eighth and see them get one in the ninth, you couldn't ask for anything better."
The Baby Bombers doubled their lead in the eighth on Tyler Austin's one-out RBI single.
"It was a good pitch," said Austin, who also singled in a run in Game 1 of the semifinals against Brooklyn. "He threw a slider in the dirt that I swung at and then he left me a fastball up that I was able to hit up the middle."
The Doubledays made thing interesting in the ninth. A single and an error put runners on the corners and Justin Miller's sacrifice fly halved Auburn's deficit. But Branden Pinder retired Angelberth Montilla on a forceout and he got Caleb Ramsey to hit a sharp one-hopper to first base, setting off the celebration.
"It's unbelievable. It's a great feeling to be here," Austin said. "We've been working hard and we've worked our butts off and now it's our time. It's amazing. I don't know if words can describe what I'm feeling. We were able to accomplish something that not many people have the chance to accomplish."
The victory provided a perfect end to manager Tom Slater's first season in the New York-Penn League.
"I wouldn't say there were huge ranges of emotions tonight, I just had to stay even-keeled and let them play," Slater said. "We have good players, and that is the bottom line. It's fun to work with them. They are all good kids who want to be great. They worked extremely hard all year long. They came in, stuck to their routine, played hard and had fun while they were playing.
"[Tracy and Wilson] are guys who played at major college programs. They are used to games like these, where they're playing for a chance to go to the postseason."