FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For the second night in a row in their quest for the Florida State League championship, the Daytona Cubs handed the ball to a rookie. For the second night in a row, the kid in question delivered big-time, giving Daytona a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.
Jay Jackson, a 20-year-old right-hander, allowed four hits over 5 2/3 shutout innings and the Cubs piled on 14 hits in a 9-1 rout of the Fort Myers Miracle that left them one win from their first title since 2000.
"That's big, to get the first two out of the way, especially on the road," said Jackson, who allowed two hits in the first and only two more over the next 4 2/3 innings. "I was just thinking I had to keep my team in the ballgame and throw strikes."
Jackson pitched the East Division series opener against Palm Beach on Monday, but that game was washed out before it became official and was replayed in full the following night. As a result, his turn came up Sunday night instead of what would have been Game 3 of the Finals.
The 2008 ninth-round pick out of Furman University pitched like a veteran, striking out five without walking a batter before reaching his pitch limit with two outs in the sixth.
"I'm always nervous before I pitch," he said, "but it's a good nervous. It's just fun being out there."
Jackson began his pro career in June at short-season Boise, where he spent three games before moving up to Class A Peoria. He posted a 3.00 ERA there and struck out 37 over 24 innings before joining Daytona in early August and recording a 1.59 ERA in four games. He fanned 21 and walked seven in 17 innings.
It was the same brief career path that Saturday night's starter, Casey Coleman, had taken since being drafted in the 15th round this spring out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Coleman allowed one run over five innings in his Game 1 start but did not get the decision in Daytona's come-from-behind 5-1 victory.
The Cubs made Jackson's win a little less of a nailbiter as they staked the right-hander to a five-run lead in the top of the third.
Ryan Harvey got things started with a triple off the left-field wall and got Daytona on the board when he scored on a groundout by Jonathan Mota. With one out, Darwin Barney doubled to center and was joined on the basepaths by his double play partner, Tony Thomas, who walked against Miracle starter Cole Devries.
Jim Adduci singled home Barney to make it 2-0, moving Thomas to third. Thomas came home on a fielder's choice by Ty Wright, who scored ahead of Blake Lalli's two-run homer to right.
The Cubs padded the lead with single runs in the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth. Russ Canzler's RBI single was the key hit in the fifth, while Thomas delivered a run-scoring single up the middle in the sixth and an RBI double in the eighth.
Thomas, a Florida State product taken in the third round of the 2007 Draft, continued his hot hitting. After batting .500 with five runs scored in the first round against Palm Beach, he drove in two runs Saturday and went 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs in this one.
Things got a little testy in the ninth when Miracle reliever Matt Williams hit both Harvey and Mota, the latter coming with the bases loaded to bring home Wright.
Every member of the Cubs' starting lineup had at least one hit, with Thomas, Harvey, Lalli, Barney and catcher Steve Clevenger picking up two apiece.
The bullpen tandem of Jayson Ruhlman, Mike Cooper, Todd Blackford and Dustin Sasser made sure Jackson's lead held as they combined for 3 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, allowing one run.
The Miracle got on the board in the eighth off against Blackford, when Steve Singleton drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a passed ball and scored when Whit Robbins laced a single just over Barney's glove at shortstop.
The series heads back east to Daytona for Game 3 on Monday night and, if necessary, Games 4 and 5 on Tuesday and Wednesday.