DURHAM, N.C. - The Durham Bulls advanced to the Governors' Cup Final for the second straight year with a 4-2 win over the Columbus Clippers Saturday afternoon at the DBAP.
The Bulls recorded their third straight win after dropping the first game of the best-of-Five series against Columbus. The defending International League Champions will now face the Pawtucket Red Sox for the second straight season in the Governors' Cup Final.
Starter Nathan Karns tied a Bulls Triple-A postseason record by striking out 12 batters over seven innings, matching Jeremy Hellickson's dozen punchouts against Louisville on September 9, 2009. Karns allowed just three hits and walked one, leaving with a 2-1 lead.
Karns' performance resulted in a no-decision when reliever Merrill Kelly allowed a leadoff double to Matt Carson in the eighth. Carson advanced on a groundout and scored on Luke Carlin's sacrifice fly to make it a 2-2 ballgame.
The Bulls took back the lead in the bottom of the eighth though, as Cole Figueroa led off with a single, stole second, and scored on Jeremy Moore's double down the right field line. Vince Belnome then plated Moore with a double off the top of the Blue Monster for an insurance run, extending the Durham lead to 4-2.
Durham got their leadoff runner on by walk in both the fifth and sixth innings and managed to bring both around to score. Tim Beckham got a free pass in the fifth and scored on Nick Franklin's double. An inning later, Figueroa walked, moved to second on Mikie Mahtook's grounder, and scored on Moore's single.
Kelly (1-0) finished the game to earn the win, while right-hander J.C. Ramirez (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing two runs to score in the bottom of the eighth.
The Governors' Cup Final berth marks Durham's sixth championship appearance since manager Charlie Montoyo took over the squad in 2007. The Bulls seek their third Governors' Cup crown in that span, and fifth since 2002, after joining the International League in 1998.
The best-of-five Governors' Cup Championship Round begins in Pawtucket, with Game One on Tuesday night and Game Two following on Wednesday night. The series shifts to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for Game Three on Thursday night, with Games Four and Five (if necessary) on Friday and Saturday.