The San Jose Giants used brilliant pitching and a three-run homer by Brian Bocock to capture the California League championship with a 7-1 victory over the visiting Lake Elsinore Storm on Monday.
The win sealed a dramatic comeback for San Jose, which dropped the first two games of the series before sweeping the final three at Municipal Stadium to clinch its fourth title as a San Francisco Giants affiliate. It was the second time in three years that San Jose bounced back from a two-game deficit to the Storm and won the championship at home.
"Down 0-2, we all believed we could do it," said third baseman Mark Minicozzi, who was named Finals MVP after going 10-for-18 over the five-game set.
Four Giants hurlers combined on a two-hitter and set down the final 19 batters. Starter Henry Sosa surrendered one run on two hits, striking out three and walking one in four frames, and reliever Adam Cowart (2-1) tossed three perfect innings -- striking out four -- for the win. Jason Waddell fanned two in a flawless eighth inning before Sergio Romo struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Sean Kazmar to end the game before his teammates mobbed him at the mound.
"It was mayhem," said Cowart of the celebration at the mound. "Everyone was running around. It was a great way to end the season."
Bocock's two-out blast gave San Jose (3-2) a 5-1 lead in the fourth. The light-hitting shortstop entered the contest in a 2-for-19 postseason slide after batting .220 with four home runs in 87 regular-season games with the Giants.
"He hung a slider and I knew it [was a home run] as soon as I hit it," Bocock said.
It was the clear turning point in the game according to San Jose skipper Lenn Sakata.
"In a championship game, you never know when lightning's going to strike," he said. "It was definitely the biggest blow of the game. It drove a dagger in their heart."
Minicozzi ripped a game-tying solo homer in the second. The 24-year-old, who hit .437 (14-for-32) in the playoffs after struggling for much of the season with injuries, said he thrives when it matters most.
"I don't know how to explain it, but I hit really well in pressure situations," he said. "I love being in big games with the crowds. I want to be the guy that helps the team win the game."
Sakata, the team's manager for both championships, said while the 2005 club might have had more raw talent, the 2007 team won more with emotion and heart.
"This is a very, very scrappy ballclub," Sakata said. "They're going to remember this one for a long time."
They should also be able to clearly recall their skipper's confident, easygoing guidance.
"We played relaxed and never really pressed," Bocock said.
"All of that [credit] goes to our manager. He's my favorite manager. There's no one I want to play for more than him. He doesn't put any pressure on you. ... I absolutely love playing for Lenn Sakata."
Kyle Haines chopped a go-ahead RBI single in the third, and Travis Ishikawa tacked on a two-run homer in the eighth.
The win sealed a dramatic comeback for San Jose, which dropped the first two games of the series before sweeping the final three at Municipal Stadium to clinch its fourth title as a San Francisco Giants affiliate. It was the second time in three years that San Jose has bounced back from a two-game deficit to the Storm before winning the championship at home. The teams also shared the league title in 2001.
Storm starter Richie Daigle (2-1) surrendered five runs on seven hits while striking out three without a walk in 3 2/3 innings.
Josh Alley led off the game with a homer for Lake Elsinore (2-3). The 24-year-old center fielder also singled in the third for the Storm's only other hit.