Bote, 'pen propel Pelicans to Mills Cup repeat

Cubs first-base prospect deemed MVP of Carolina League postseason

Myrtle Beach celebrates its second straight Carolina League championship. (Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

By Bob Sutton / Special to MiLB.com | September 14, 2016 11:30 PM

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- Of all the hits David Bote collected during the postseason for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, a harmless-looking dribbler that stirred a seventh-inning rally might have been the biggest.

It brought the Pelicans closer to again nabbing the Carolina League's top prize and created the perfect homecoming for Myrtle Beach manager Buddy Bailey.

"It's all about winning a championship," said Bote, the Cubs infield prospect named the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs. "It's a long season."

David Bote recorded another multi-hit game and scored twice as the Pelicans defeated the Lynchburg Hillcats, 5-3, in Game 4 of the Mills Cup Finals on Wednesday night at Calvin Falwell Field.

The Pelicans won back-to-back championships, becoming the first team in the league to win consecutive years since Winston-Salem in 1985-86.

Bote batted in .577 in seven playoff games. He went 10-for-17 in the Finals and 2-for-4 on Wednesday night.

"Going in and winning every pitch," Bote said of his approach. "Being able to hone in on every pitch."

Lynchburg manager Mark Budzinski knew his squad had its hands full with the 2012 18th-round pick.

"He does a really good job of making you make plays," Budzinski said. "They all do."

The 23-year-old, who spent time with Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee earlier this season, said he might have needed that type of experience.

"I've been moving around a couple of times during the year," Bote said. "I was able to get multiple coaches' input about my approach and glean that from different guys. … I'm thankful for every opportunity I've been given. Everybody's path to the big leagues is different."

Bailey took a long road to becoming a championship manager. He grew up about 20 miles from Lynchburg, attended Lynchburg College and managed the Minor League team there -- then a Boston affiliate -- in 1991-92.

Now he's won it all with an opposing team.

"I couldn't get it 25 years ago, but we got this," Bailey said. "This is still home for me. … I had about 40 people on the pass list, you'd think we were a Major League team."

The Pelicans, who trailed 3-2 after six innings, loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh on Bote's infield single and tied the game two pitches later on a wild pitch.

"Two strikes, my entire goal there was to put the ball in play," Bote said. "Things happen. We scored three runs. That inning really sealed the deal."

Bryant Flete lofted Matt Whitehouse's 0-2 pitch into right-center field for an RBI single and Bote scored when Jeffrey Baez's grounder to third base turned into an error.

"In playoff-type environments and championship games, it's pitching and defense," Budzinski said. "They've just got guys who know how to pitch and they held us down."

Myrtle Beach's bullpen allowed two runs in 31 1/3 innings during the playoffs, including a sterling 4 1/3-inning effort from James Pugliese in the final.

"When you get the lead and your bullpen isn't going to give up any runs, you're going to win the game," Bailey said.

Pugliese didn't allow a hit until Indians' No. 10 prospect Yu-Cheng Chang's flair went off shortstop Andrew Ely's glove in shallow left field with one out in the eighth.

"I've been a starter, [so] I had more in the tank," the right-hander said of his extended outing. "They knew I had a higher pitch count. They all had faith in me."

Myrtle Beach then turned to Tommy Thorpe, who doused the eighth-inning threat on six pitches. After beginning the ninth with a four-pitch walk, closer Ryan McNeil finished off the championship with a pair of strikeouts.

Pelicans starter Preston Morrison, who threw six shutout innings against Lynchburg during the regular season, encountered trouble right away but still limited the damage. The Hillcats scored a run and loaded the bases before the righty recorded the first out in the first inning, but the threat fizzled.

"That proved costly," Budzinski said.

After giving up a two-run homer to Cleveland's No. 4 prospect Francisco Mejia in the third, Morrison ended up in a second-and-third jam with one out. He survived that but didn't come out for the fourth, marking his shortest stint since early May after allowing three runs on seven hits.

Mejia's second postseason homer came exactly a month after the end of his 50-game hitting streak. The top four batters in Lynchburg's lineup delivered all its hits, including three for Chang.

Cubs' No. 11 prospect Donnie Dewees collected three of Myrtle Beach's eight hits.

Bob Sutton 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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