Nothing came easy for the Albuquerque Isotopes and manager Lorenzo Bundy this season. But they always seemed to get the job done.
The story remained the same on Sunday.
The Dodgers' top Minor League affiliate squandered an early four-run lead, then scored in the seventh and eighth to defeat the Omaha Storm Chasers, 6-5, and clinch the Pacific Coast League American South Division title.
With the Isotopes suddenly trailing, 5-4, in the seventh, Trent Oeltjen doubled home Scott Van Slyke with the tying run. An inning later, Dee Gordon reached on a bunt single, raced to third on Elian Herrera's base hit and scored on Josh Fields' sacrifice fly.
Omaha, the American North champions, threatened in the ninth after Irving Falu led off with a double and moved to third with one out. But Josh Wall struck out Max Ramirez and retired Wil Myers, MLB.com's No. 14 prospect on a fly ball to center field for his league-leading 28th save, setting off a celebration at Isotopes Park.
Bundy, the PCL Manager of the Year, said his team trailed Oklahoma City by as many as six games and never could build a comfortable lead once it climbed to the top of the division. But it was able to pull things out when things got hairy.
"I think we established ourselves as a team that doesn't really do anything easy, but for some reason is able to survive," he said. "We set some team records, like getting 19 games over .500, and had five chances to get to 20, never did. New Orleans got hot, Oklahoma City got hot, and they closed the gap. We gotta give credit to these young guys for being able to persevere and grind this thing out.
"They drive their manager crazy, they drive their pitching coach crazy, they drive their hitting coach crazy, but it's a great bunch and anything less than celebrating today or tomorrow would really have been a huge letdown."
Albuquerque ranks second in the PCL with 838 runs scored. Jerry Sands leads the team with 26 homers and 107 RBIs, while Dodgers' No. 9 prospect Alex Castellanos has 17 homers, a .332 average and 1.021 OPS. Van Slyke is hitting .328 with 18 homers and a .579 slugging percentage.
Recalled by Los Angeles before Sunday's clincher, John Ely leads the PCL with 14 wins, a 3.20 ERA and 165 strikeouts.
Wall has converted 28 of 30 save opportunities.
"I'm really happy for them, we had so many opportunities to clinch this thing," Bundy said. "I want them to realize how important this is for them, because it's hard to get to this point. It took us until game 143 to get it done, but we can say we're division champs now."
Gordon went 3-for-4 with a walk and two steals, catcher Josh Bard homered and doubled, while Van Slyke contributed three hits and an RBI.
Florida State League
Lakeland 6, Tampa 0
Cesar Carrillo gave up three hits and struck out four over six innings to help the Flying Tigers take the North Division second-half crown.
Dean Green went 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs, while leadoff man Marcus Lemon tripled, walked and scored a run. Lakeland will face Dunedin in the division finals, beginning Tuesday. Box score
Lansing 9, Lake County 2
Bowling Green didn't have to break a sweat to capture the Eastern Division second-half pennant. While the Hot Rods were rained out, second-place Lake County was beaten by Lansing, 9-2.
Bowling Green and Lake County will square off in a best-of-3 first-round series, starting Wednesday at Classic Park. Box score
Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com.