Dylan Cease wasn't overly pleased with Sunday night's outing. But at this time of year, results and the win are all that matter.
The Cubs' No. 4 prospect allowed two hits and two walks while striking out six in four scoreless innings as Eugene defeated Everett, 3-1, in the Game 1 of the best-of-3 Northwest League Finals. With one more win, the Emeralds would claim their first championship since 1980. That, more than anything, is what was on Cease's mind following the game.
"We are feeling confident," the 20-year-old said. "Confident that we are going to go play as hard as we can and put ourselves in a good spot."
Cease (1-0) took the mound with a 1-0 lead after Yeiler Peguero homered in the first. The 2014 sixth-round pick worked around a two-out double by Eric Filia in the bottom of the inning. In the second, the right-hander allowed a leadoff double to Kristian Brito and hit Johan Quevedo with two outs before escaping unscathed. Cease threw a clean third, then issued a pair of walks to Nick Zammarelli and Nick Thurman in the fourth. But he kept Everett off the board by whiffing Austin Grebeck and Quevedo to end the inning and his evening after 82 pitches.
"It was one of those games where you have to grind," the Georgia native said. "I didn't have great command, but I still tried to attack as best as I could."
In 12 starts for the Emeralds, Cease fanned 66 in 44 2/3 innings and finished with a 2.22 ERA. He didn't allow more than a run in each of his final six regular-season outings.
Cubs' No. 12 prospect D.J. Wilson and Chris Pieters hit solo homers in the sixth to extend Eugene's lead. It was still a three-run game in the eighth when Everett loaded the bases with nobody out. Reliever Dakota Mekkes struck out Zammarelli and nearly induced an inning-ending double play from Brito. His run-scoring groundout put Everett on the board, but Mekkes got Thurman to fly out to end the threat. The 21-year-old right-hander worked around Quevedo's single in the ninth to notch his first save.
"That was huge," Cease said. "To be able to get out of that inning giving up only one run was a key moment for us."
Michael Rucker (1-1) walked one and struck out one in three hitless innings to earn the win for Emerald.
The series shifts to Eugene's PK Park on Monday night.