For the second time in three seasons, the Dash have qualified for the Mills Cup Championship Series, and Winston-Salem will play for its Carolina League-leading 12th championship. Winston will host the Lynchburg Hillcats, who edged Wilmington 2-1 in Game 3 of the NDCS, in Game 1 of the title set Saturday night at 7:00. The Dash and 'Cats split their 20 regular season meetings.
Winston-Salem's bats broke out in the bottom of the second. After Courtney Hawkins drove home a run with a fielder's choice, the Dash loaded the bases for Keenyn Walker. Walker laced a 2-0 fastball to the gap in right-center to clear the bases and propel Winston-Salem to a 4-0 lead.
The Dash continued their offensive onslaught in the third with another big bases loaded knock. Kevan Smith clubbed a grand slam to the bullpen bar in left-center for his second grand slam in a Dash uniform. Winston led the CL with six grand slams in the regular season. Four batters later, Daniel Wagner brought home Winston-Salem's ninth run with a single to center to cap a five-run inning.
Dash starter Chris Bassitt (1-0) twirled the best start of his minor league career. The right-hander blanked the Pelicans on three hits over a career-high seven innings. He only allowed four runners, and no Pelican reached third base against the former Akron Zip.
Out of the bullpen, Steven Upchurch tossed a perfect eighth inning before J.R. Ballinger stranded three Myrtle Beach runners in the ninth to clinch the SDCS. Chris Curley fielded the final ground ball and threw to first to complete the best-of-three series victory.
After the Pelicans took a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning of Game 2, the Dash outscored Myrtle 12-0 in the final 11 frames. Winston dropped Game 1 4-1 before rebounding for a 5-3 victory Thursday night.
The Dash will open up the Mills Cup Championship Series Saturday night at 7:00 inside BB&T Ballpark. Winston-Salem will send Steve McCray (9-3, 3.30 ERA) to the mound against fellow right-hander Michael Lee (3-3, 3.93 ERA). An extended version of the Pre-Game Dash begins at 6:40 on wsdash.com.
For tickets to Game 1 and Game 2 of the Mills Cup Championship Series at BB&T Ballpark, Dash fans can visit wsdash.com or call (336) 714-2287.