Braves sweep way into Appy League Finals

Danville awaits winner of Elizabethton-Johnson City series for crown

Catching prospect Tanner Murphy hit a three-run homer in the opener and scored the go-ahead run in the clincher. (Danville Braves)

By Mark Emery / | September 1, 2014 11:43 PM ET

The Danville Braves didn't get to experience the joy of winning a division title this season, but with Monday's victory, Atlanta's Rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League is two wins away from a championship.

Every single player in the lineup recorded at least one hit as the Braves overcame a pair of one-run deficits to complete a sweep of the Princeton Rays in the East Division Finals with an 8-5 victory at Hunnicutt Field. Danville will face off with Elizabethton or Johnson City for the crown.

Catcher Tanner Murphy -- who cranked a three-run homer as part of a 4-3 win in the opener -- crossed the plate for the go-ahead run on Fernelys Sanchez's double in the three-run fourth inning.

"It's fantastic," Murphy said. "We've been working hard all year. We've really come together as a team. Our camaraderie is just unbelievable. To see it finally pay off and seeing that we've finally made it to the final round, it's unbelievable. It's fantastic."

The 2013 fourth-round pick also plated a run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. In two semifinal games, he went 2-for-7 with four RBIs and threw out two would-be basestealers.

"That last pitch being thrown, it was just a relief, a big relief," Murphy said. "We all got smiles. [We're] ready to get back home and start the Final. ... I'm very excited, but we've got a job to do. We need to get ready for the Finals."

Nick Ciuffo's RBI double with two outs in the fifth inning brought an end to Braves starter Max Povse's evening. Over 4 2/3 frames, the righty gave up five runs and eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Reliever Michael Flores (1-0) walked Angel Moreno, but got out of the inning by retiring Cristian Toribio.

Tyler Vail and Jorge Zavala combined on the final four innings, with the former earning the hold and the latter getting the save. Vail gave up three hits with one walk and one strikeout over 2 1/3 innings, while Zavala whiffed three batters in 1 1/3 innings.

Princeton starter Hyrum Formo (0-1) was charged with five runs -- four of which were earned -- on six hits and one walk across three innings. He struck out three.

Though the Rays came out on top of the East Division during the regular season, it will be the Braves who represent the section during the Appalachian League Championship Series.

"Second place, we will definitely take it," Murphy said. "Either way, we've made it to the Finals, so we'll definitely take it."

In other Appalachian League playoff action:

Johnson City 10, Elizabethton 9

After taking the opener, the Twins overcame a six-run deficit in the second game by scoring nine runs in the sixth inning. But the Cardinals came right back and scored four times in the following frame, highlighted by Oscar Mercado's two-run double. The two clubs will play Game 3 on Tuesday for the opportunity to face the Braves. Box score

Mark Emery is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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