Luis Perez tossed 6 1/3 solid innings and Cody Crowell escaped a jam in the ninth Tuesday as the Auburn Doubledays edged the Oneonta Tigers, 4-3, to reach the New York-Penn League Championship Series.
Perez, who had not thrown more than six innings in his prevoius four starts, scattered five hits while fanning seven for his first career playoff win.
"Perez was throwing some of the best stuff I've seen," said Auburn third baseman Brad Emaus, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer. "He throws hard, he's got movement. He just did an outstanding job today."
"Perez was awesome," added left fielder Ben Zeskind, a member of last year's team that lost in the first round. "I think when he sticks to his fastball, like he did tonight, he's really tough to hit. The main thing for him is throwing strikes, and he threw strikes. He really competed the whole game and it was awesome to see in this arena."
Joe Wice relieved Perez in the seventh with the Doubledays leading 4-1 and recorded two outs. Ryan Bird followed with a perfect eighth, then ran into real trouble in the ninth. He gave up leadoff singles to Kody Kaiser and Jorge Patino before striking out Cory Middleton and pinch-hitter Michael Sullivan.
Bird surrendered a two-run double to Christopher White that got the Tigers within 4-3 with the tying run on second and Oneonta's best hitter, Justin Henry, due up.
Doubledays manager Dennis Holmberg turned the ball over to left-handed specialist Cody Crowell to get the final out.
"We had Cody on the mound and his stuff is really dominating against left-handed hitters," Emaus said. "I felt really confident about him being on the mound, he's been great all year."
Holmberg made the right move as Crowell came through in the clutch to earn his first postseason save. He struck out Henry with a pair of knee-buckling curveballs to end to Oneonta's rally and send Auburn to the championship series for the second time in three years.
"Cody's awesome," said Zeskind. "All year, he's been a horse out of the bullpen. In the beginning of the year, our bullpen won a ton of games. I think our bullpen won more games than our starting pitching, so it's no surprise our bullpen comes in and really shuts the door."
Offensively, Auburn didn't waste any time getting on the board. Zeskind led off the game with a single and Manny Rodriguez doubled him home.
In the third, Zeskind walked and took second on Adam Calderone's sacrifice. Darin Mastroianni singled and Rodriguez collected his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly. Emaus stepped to the plate and smashed his second homer in as many games, giving Auburn four runs with which to work.
"I don't know [how to explain it], I'm just seeing the ball well right now," said Emaus, who hit two homers in 39 regular-season games. "I'm just seeing the ball well right now. Our entire offense is doing a great job, so that's really the main thing."
The first six batters in the Doubledays order had at least one hit and accounted for all of their RBIs and runs scored.
Oneonta got its first run in the third on Casper Wells' sacrifice fly.
The Doubledays will face the Brooklyn Cyclones in the championship series, beginning Thursday. Auburn has not won a league title since 1998.
"I'm really excited," said Zeskind. "I've been with this team two years now and it's a core group of guys, a lot of guys I went through extended [spring training] with, a lot guys I played with last year, so it's awesome. We really are a team and I don't know how often in the Minor Leagues you can say that."