Allentown, PA - The Naturals presence was easily apparent in the 2-1 Storm Chasers victory over the Durham Bulls on the nationally-televised 2013 Triple-A National Championship at Coca-Cola Park on Tuesday night in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Omaha's LHP Chris Dwyer, a member of the 2011 and 2012 Naturals starting rotation, carried a Perfect Game into the 7th inning and retired the first 20 batters he faced. Kansas City's 4th Round Pick from the 2009 Draft was the winning pitcher and was named the game's MVP. The game pits the Pacific Coast and International Triple-A League's Champions against each other in a one-game playoff to determine the year's Triple-A Champion.
In total, 18 former Naturals including pitching coach Larry Carter, suited up for the Storm Chasers in their improbable run towards tonight's Championship. Nine members of the 2013 Naturals were in uniform tonight, and four were in skipper Mike Jerschele's starting lineup including, DH Brian Fletcher, LF Lane Adams, 3B Rey Navarro, and C Manny Piña.
Dwyer was opposed on the mound by Durham's RHP Jake Odorizzi - another member of the 2011 and 2012 Naturals rotation - and Dwyer almost perfect. The 25-year-old did not allow a batter to reach base until a two-out single by SS Tim Beckham in the 7th Inning. He struck out the next batter to complete his 7-inning effort that saw the former Clemson Tiger give up just a hit and striking out 8 without allowing a walk.
2012 Natural Michael Mariot recorded five outs in relief, surrendering a run on two hits and a walk. After retiring the first two batters in the 9th and then giving up a single, Mariot came within a strike of ending the game, but walked Beckham to put the go-ahead run on base. Jirschele then called for 2013 Naturals closer LHP Zach Jackson to finish the game, and the Single-season saves leader struck out former San Antonio Mission 1B Vince Belnome to clinch the Title. The save was Jackson's second for the Storm Chasers since bolstering the bullpen after the conclusion of the Naturals season.
Piña drove in Adams with a two-out single in the second inning for the first tally of the game. He also came around to score the winning run on a single in the sixth inning by 2010 Natural Irving Falu. Both rallies started with two outs.
Out of the lead-off spot, Falu notched three hits and Lane Adams added a pair including a line drive double off of Odorizzi. Odorizzi, on a strict pitch-count with the hopes of re-joining the Tampa Bay Rays rotation, lasted just four innings and surrendered a run on four hits and a walk, while striking out 8 Chasers. RHP JD Martin took the loss after going four innings giving up a run on five hits and a walk.
The Chasers earned their second PCL Title in three years on Sunday with a 10-1 victory over Salt Lake City (AAA-Angels) in Game 4 of the best-of-five championship series. Lane Adams belted a three-run triple in the first inning that opened up the onslaught.
Omaha earned a playoff berth after a 70-74 regular season record and swept Oklahoma City in a three-game series to advance the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. The Storm Chasers were 8-1 in post-season play.
Other Naturals Alumni on the roster for the Championship game included last season's Naturals Player of the Year INF Christian Colón, RHP Michael Mariot, LHP Buddy Baumman, RHP Spencer Patton, LHP Everett Teaford, LHP Ryan Verdugo, LHP Justin Marks, super-utility man Anthony Seratelli, OF Paulo Orlando, and C Mitch Canham.
The Triple-A National Championship is an annual one-game winner-take-all playoff between the Pacific Coast League's Champion and the International League's Champion. Since 2011, the re-branded Triple-A National Championship is played at a different Triple-A city each year and is broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (formerly the NBC Universal-owned Versus Network).
The Seventh Season of Naturals Baseball begins Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Frisco, TX. The team opens at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday April 10, 2014 against the same Frisco Rough Riders.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit nwanaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @nwanaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.