Three months after wrapping up his college career at Tulane University, Brad Emaus has powered the Auburn Doubledays to the brink of their first New York-Penn League title.
Emaus' two-run homer, his third blast in as many games, snapped a sixth-inning tie as host Auburn defeated Brooklyn, 7-1, in Game 1 of the best-of-3 NYPL Finals on Thursday.
The 21-year-old third baseman, who hit .228 with two home runs in 39 games after starting his pro career on June 27, leads the Doubledays with a .571 average, three homers and six RBIs in four postseason contests.
"I'm just seeing the ball well right now," said Emaus, a native of New Orleans. "Once you get over that 100 at-bat mark and adjust to the wood, it gets a lot easier. Hopefully it will continue."
Auburn was held scoreless through five innings by starter Dillon Gee, but broke through in the sixth off Stephen Clyne (1-1). Adam Calderone led off with a double, stole third and scored on Manuel Rodriguez's single. Emaus followed with a blast over the left-field wall to give the Doubledays a 3-1 edge.
"It was a first-pitch fastball and I put a good swing on it," he said. "I always go up there looking fastball and I got it."
Emaus was also part of Auburn's four-run eighth, drawing an intentional walk and scoring on Benjamin Zeskind's two-run single.
Doubledays reliever Kyle Walter (1-0) surrendered one hit and three walks while fanning three over five scoreless innings. Starter Chi-Hung Cheng allowed a run on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts in two frames.
Manager Dennis Holmberg has led Auburn to six straight postseason appearances, including a loss in the 2005 Finals against Staten Island. Now the Doubledays are one win from their first league championship.
"The playoffs are pretty much the same as any other game, just a little different atmosphere and a much more fun experience," Emaus said. "We've got a great guy [starter Brett Cecil] going [Friday], so we just have to keep going out and playing and hopefully get the win."
The Cyclones threatened to blow the game open when they loaded the bases with no outs in the second. Lucas Duda drew a leadoff walk and Jacob Eigsti and Will Vogl singled. After Raul Reyes struck out, Cesar Cordido lifted a sacrifice fly that plated Duda for a 1-0 lead. Ezequiel Carrera grounded out to Cheng to end the threat.
Gee scattered four hits and a walk with a career-high eight strikeouts. Clyne was charged with three runs on three hits and a walk while fanning two in one frame.
The teams head to Brooklyn for Game 2, which begins at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.