Grand Junction, CO -- Hampered by injuries, Michael Antonio may not have had the success he would have liked this season, but he's doing everything he can to ensure he ends the year on a high note. And maybe even with a ring.
But for the New York native, Wednesday was one of those nights where he had to put the game in perspective.
The Royals prospect went 3-for-4 with a pair of solo homers to power Idaho Falls to a 5-2 victory over Grand Junction and a spot in the Pioneer League Championship Series.
The Chukars split the rare postseason doubleheader and took the best-of-3 semifinal series, 2-1. They will face the Helena Brewers, who completed a two-game sweep of Great Falls on Tuesday.
"We're celebrating and everybody is happy we're going to the championship," Antonio said. "But I remember 12 years ago when I was sad and upset, being from New York on 9/11. But I was lucky. Nothing happened to me or my family and now I'm playing the game I love. ... It's a nice feeling, something to enjoy."
Selected by the Royals in the third round of the 2010 Draft, Antonio smacked a two-out homer in the second inning, singled to right field to load the bases in a two-run fourth and went deep again in the eighth.
"My first at-bat, we were down, 2-0, and I was just waiting for a pitch to drive and hit hard," said Antonio, who was a fourth-grader in Manhattan's P.S. No. 4 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 2001. "I was waiting for my pitch to hit out ... it was a 2-1 fastball. After that, we had the momentum going.
"My last at-bat, I just knew that I wanted to get more insurance runs, but I just wanted to wait for a pitch I could do some damage with."
The 21-year-old designated hitter spent most of the season with Class A Lexington, where he batted .191 with five homers and 35 RBIs in an injury-plagued stint. Assigned to the Pioneer League on Aug. 28, Antonio hit .421 with a homer and eight RBIs in nine games.
Antonio, who bypassed a scholarship from St. John's University to sign with the Royals, hit safely in all nine games and recorded extra-base hits in seven of them.
"Me being from New York, I take a lot of pride in today," said Antonio, whose family still lives a block from his elementary school. "It's a very special day for me. Growing up watching the Yankees play, [winning] it every year, it's something that has stayed with me, being a winner. I want to be the guy that steps up when the game is 1-1 or 2-2.
"I was playing through a shoulder injury in the Midwest League [in 2012] and I just never found that comfort zone. This year, I had a [right] wrist injury. I know I'm here on a rehab assignment, but I look at is as trying to help these guys win a championship."
Idaho Falls won Game 1 of the series, 7-1, but dropped the opener of Wednesday's doubleheader by the same score.
In the nightcap, Chukars starter Yender Caramo (1-0) allowed two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out six over seven innings. Kyle Bartsch fanned four over two hitless frames to finish up.
Grand Junction's Blake Shouse (0-1) was reached for three runs on six hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out three.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.