Fincher, White Sox win AZL championship

North Division first-half winners fend off Mariners in one-game Final

The White Sox won three consecutive postseason games to claim the Arizona League crown. (Cory Barton/White Sox)

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | September 3, 2015 12:08 AM

After cruising to a first-half division title but finishing the second half with a losing record, the White Sox captured the Arizona League championship.

"I think we just grew together," manager Mike Gellinger said. "We had some little struggles in the second half. It wasn't that we necessarily played really bad, we just had a few lapses. Maybe we got a little bit tired in the middle but picked it up and came together again."

In the Championship Game on Wednesday, the White Sox held on for a 3-2 win over the Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex to win their third straight playoff game and second in a row on the road.

"With the three games in single elimination, all three teams we played against played really well," Gellinger said. "Tonight, our guys just happened to get one more than other team did and we played really well."

While the White Sox wound up 29-27 overall after a 17-11 start, they remained an offensive juggernaut, leading the league in batting average (.271), hits (511) and doubles (101) and finishing second in runs scored (307), homers (23), on-base percentage (.346), slugging (.389) and RBIs (242).

"We've swung the bat real well," Gellinger said. "We've scored quite a few runs for a short season."

Jake Fincher, a 29th-round pick in this year's Draft out of North Carolina State, went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored out of the leadoff spot in the title game.

"He's done great wherever I've put him," Gellinger said of Fincher, who slashed .292/.360/.435 in his first pro season. "Sometimes I've had him ninth, sometimes I've had him sixth and sometimes I've had him lead off. He handles the bat well and he has tremendous speed."

Bradley Strong, who ranked fifth in the league with a .326 average, added a key insurance run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly. Gelliinger was used to seeing the 28th-round pick out of Western Carolina University come through.

"To be honest with you, he's done a great job all season," the manager said. "He's been awesome on defense and offense. Both of my middle [infield] guys, [shortstop Daniel] Mendick and Strong, have been the heart and soul as far as when [the opposition has] somebody on base, they turn double plays and make big outs. They did a great job keeping us in games, diving for balls and getting us out of jams."

The Mariners sent seven men to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, scoring to pull within one before reliever Richard McWilliams got Juan Camacho to foul out to first baseman and 2015 sixth-round pick Corey Zangari to end the game.

Gellinger admitted he was nervous in the final frame.

"Definitely. You're always nervous, but that's baseball," he said. "That's what makes a one-run game so fun." 

Christopher Comito earned the win, allowing a run on two hits and two walks while fanning three over five innings. The 19-year-old right-hander was 5-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 games, including 11 starts, after the White Sox selected him in the 15th round of the Draft.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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