Antonio powers Chukars into Finals

Royals prospect homers twice in all-or-nothing Game 3

Michael Antonio hit six homers in 106 regular-season games. (Stephen Smith/Four Seam Images)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | September 11, 2013 8:52 PM ET

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.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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