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Carter powers Ports to championship

Hits grand slam, solo homer to finish off JetHawks in Game 4
September 15, 2008
One of the most successful franchises in California League history slugged its way into the record books again on Sunday night.

Chris Carter hit a grand slam and a solo homer as the Stockton Ports captured the Cal League championship with a 9-3 victory over the Lancaster JetHawks at Clear Channel Stadium.

It's the 11th championship in team history and the first since 2002. Those 11 titles tie Stockton with Reno for the most in league annals.

"It feels great," said Carter, who led the league with 39 homers during the season. "It's good to get it over with."

Carter's slam capped a six-run seventh as the Ports climbed ahead for good. The 21-year-old third baseman added a leadoff shot in the ninth to seal the win.

"I got down 0-2, but he left a pitch up and I got it," Carter said of the slam.

Archie Gilbert went 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored en route to postseason MVP honors. After hitting for the cycle earlier this season, he drove in six runs in the series opener, then delivered a bases-loaded single in the seventh leading up to Carter's grand slam.

"Archie, since day one of the playoffs, has really been very disciplined and intense at the plate," said Stockton manager Darren Bush. "It carried all the way through for him. He did a great job."

Gilbert was 0-for-11 with the bases loaded during the season but was batting .600 in the postseason before coming through with the go-ahead hit. He finished with eight RBIs in the four-game series.

It's the first championship for Stockton since the club signed on with the Oakland organization four years ago. The Ports' last title came as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Earlier Sunday, the Athletics' Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento won its second straight Pacific Coast League championship.

"It feels good, feels real good," said Bush. "I'm proud of these guys."

Carter, who went 3-for-5 and batted .318 in the postseason, added five homers in the playoffs to finish with 44 on the year.

"It was nice [to see him do well]. He got a good pitch to hit and he hit it hard," Bush said. "When he hits it hard, it usually goes somewhere."

Former California League All-Star Pat Currin (2-1) struck out two and allowed three hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win. Stockton starter Carlos Hernandez went 5 1/3 frames and gave up one run on six hits and two walks.

"[Hernandez] kept it a 1-1 game and gave us a chance to win," Carter said.

"He did a good job, he made big pitches when he needed to," added Bush. "He stopped them."

Derrick Loop (0-2) retired two batters out of the bullpen and was charged with five runs on two hits and three walks. JetHawks starter Blake Maxwell struck out seven and yielded a run on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Josh Papelbon surrendered two runs on three hits over the final two frames.

Yamaico Navarro's sacrifice fly in the fifth put the JetHawks ahead, but Josh Horton responded with an RBI single in the sixth to knot the game.

Gilbert's RBI single an inning later gave Stockton the lead and Horton followed with a bases-loaded walk. Lancaster pulled Loop for Craig Molldrem, who surrendered Carter's grand slam over the center-field wall.

"Lancaster is a good hitting team and we knew that at any point they could put up a six-spot on you," Bush said. "We wanted to get it to where it would take them a little time to get up on us. Our pitching staff did a great job."

Bush, who replaced Todd Steverson as manager in 2007, said he's enjoyed the ride.

"It's been fun to watch. The credit goes to the players and how hard they played and their determination," Bush added. "They were determined from Game 1."

Carter is surely ticketed for a promotion next spring but said he hasn't looked that far ahead.

"I'm going to Hawaii [for Winter Ball] after this," he said. "I'm just looking forward to that."

Danny Wild is a contributor to