When Potomac wrapped up a doubleheader sweep Wednesday, only manager Tripp Keister knew his team had clinched a second-half crown.
He didn't know that, in reality, Washington's Class A Advanced affiliate had actually clinched the Carolina League's Northern Division title hours earlier.
"I didn't think we did," Keister said. "We figured if we won another, we would. We didn't think we did after the first win. It made it a little bit of a surprise after the game because we didn't think we had clinched. The players didn't know."
The math, admittedly, might have been a little confusing, but Matt Spann allowed two hits over six innings as the Nationals blanked the Wilmington Blue Rocks, 3-0, to snare the crown in the first game of their doubleheader.
Southpaw Spann (9-5) struck out three and limited Wilmington to a pair of baserunners as the P-Nats improved to 36-24 and beat out Frederick (30-33) for the division title based on winning percentage.
"When I gathered the guys, I didn't want anyone to walk into the clubhouse and see the scene, so I had them linger in the dugout," Keister said. "I told them we had clinched, and they started to get excited. Any time you have something play out over such a long period time, and then to celebrate clinching a half, it was very special, and special to have to do it the way we did it."
The Nationals, who will host Game 1 of the Northern Division Championship series on Sept. 3, had already earned a spot in the playoffs after winning the first-half division crown. Potomac was swept by league-champion Salem in last year's Mills Cup Finals.
In the nightcap, lefty Kylin Turbull (3-3) struck out six over six innings in a combined one-hitter. Third baseman John Wooten hit a two-run homer to send the P-Nats to a 3-0 win.
Potomac overall owns a 75-55 record and trails only Myrtle Beach in wins this season. Third baseman Oscar Tejeda, promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, still ranks third in the league with 16 homers while shortstop Stephen Perez ranks second in walks (70) and second baseman Tony Renda is tied for fourth in hits (121). Spann stands third in the circuit in wins while righty Dakota Bacus ranks 10th in innings pitched (123 2/3).
"It's been fun," said Keister, in his first year with the team following his promotion from Class A Hagerstown. "I've been with this group ... some for three years, most for two ... and we've seen the guys develop and go through adversity and fight through it and continue to develop, so it's been a rewarding year. We still have some unfinished business in the playoffs, but it's been fun."