Pearl, Miss. - The Jackson Generals wrapped up an incredible 2016 season in a fitting way, claiming the Southern League Championship with a n 11-3 win over the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park Thursday night. The team got a dozen hits, including three from Championship Series MVP en route to a three-game sweep. The title is the second in franchise history, and the first since 2000.
The Generals tied a franchise-record with 84 wins in 2016 and set a new all-time high with 46 wins in the First Half. In the team's fifth-ever trip to the Championship Series, the Generals came away with a second title and a first as a Mariners' affiliate. The team's last title came in 2000 as the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.
Jackson jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The Generals scored four runs in the first inning on just one hit, an RBI double by Dario Pizzano. The other three runs scored on walks with the bases loaded. In total, 10 Generals came to the plate in the inning and six walked. Mississippi starter Patrick Weigel (1-1, 4.70) only retired two hitters.
Mississippi made it a close game, scoring the next three runs. In the second, Johan Camargo capped off a two-out rally with an RBI single to get the home team on the board. The Braves added two more in the third thanks to a solo shot from Dustin Peterson and a base hit by Joey Meneses to make it 4-3.
That was as close as the Braves would get, as Jackson starter Paul Blackburn (1-0, 4.50) fought for the win. He allowed 11 hits in six innings, but Mississippi scored just three runs against him.
The Generals started to pull away thanks to a two-out rally in the fourth inning. Tim Lopes singled and then moved to third base on a shallow pop fly to right field that Meneses couldn't find. Pizzano drove in his second run of the night with a single to right, making it 5-3.
In the fifth, Jackson added three more. With one out, Benji Gonzalez ripped a two-run triple down the line in right to put the Generals back up by four. Two batters later, Tyler O'Neill cemented his status as the league's premier player with an RBI single to left-center that made it 8-3.
That was far from it for a relentless offense. In the seventh, the team scored three times to put the game out of reach. Gonzalez singled and O'Neill doubled to put two in scoring position. After Pizzano was intentionally walked, Ryan Casteel's sac fly plated a run to put the Generals up 9-3. After a pitching change, Tyler Marlette doubled home a pair to make it 11-3.
After Blackburn, the Generals turned to newly acquired Brandon Sisk for the seventh and eighth innings. The southpaw struck out four batters in two frames to get the game to Matt Anderson in the ninth. Anderson finished it off, striking out Carlos Franco to start the celebration.
On the field, the Generals were awarded the Billy Hitchcock Championship Trophy and their 2016 Southern League Championship banner, which will join the 2000 banner at The Ballpark at Jackson. Tyler O'Neill was named Championship Series MVP after going 6-for-14 in the sweep with two doubles and three runs batted in. Over the course of seven playoff games, he went 13-for-29 with five extra-base hits and nine RBI.
Mississippi used seven pitchers in the contest and walked a total of ten Generals in the contest. Five Jackson players had multi-hit games, led by O'Neill's three knocks.
A memorable 2016 season came to an end Thursday night with the Generals claiming a much-deserved crown. Believe it or not, the 2017 season is right around the corner. Jackson opens the next campaign April 6 at home with a five-game series against the Birmingham Barons.
The Jackson Generals would like to thank the fantastic fans in West Tennessee for making 2016 an incredible year at The Ballpark at Jackson. For more information about the Generals or to inquire about ticket packages in 2017, call the team at (731) 988.5299, stop by the park or go online to www.jacksongeneralsbaseball.com.