The Kinston Indians picked the perfect time to go on a winning streak.
Jesus Aguilar hit a three-run homer and the K-Tribe pulled away late for a 9-2 victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans that clinched a spot in the Mills Cup Finals.
After losing Game 1 of the best-of-5 South Division Finals, Kinston won the next three.
"We faced a lot of adversity this year," Indians manager Aaron Holbert said. "Some guys quit on us and went home, we had a number of injuries and, most recently, Hurricane Irene crippled the stadium and had us in the darkness for a few days. But all that helped us come closer together to make this playoff push."
Myrtle Beach scored single runs in the third and fourth innings before Kinston roared back. Aguilar's blast in the bottom of the fourth put the Indians in front for good and they added an unearned run in the sixth before putting it away with a five-run eighth.
"We started off a little flat tonight and Myrtle Beach took a 2-0 lead," Holbert said. "We got a good at-bat by Aguilar in the fourth to put us up by one and we didn't look back from there."
Kinston took a 4-2 lead into the eighth, but reliever Joseph Ortiz struck out Aguilar and Tyler Cannon. Casey Frawley reached on third baseman Michael Olt's error, Roberto Perez walked and Jordan Casas followed with an RBI single. Game 3 hero Tyler Holt delivered a run-scoring double and Adam Abraham greeted Ryan Rodebaugh with another RBI double.
K-Tribe starter Mike Rayl (1-0) allowed two runs on five hits over five innings for the win. He struck out five and walked two. Kyle Landis gave up one hit and fanned four in three scoreless frames and Toru Murata struck out two in a perfect ninth.
"A lot of these players won a Midwest League championship last year with Lake County and they want to win again," Holbert noted. "They're passionate and serious about winning it all. That's the position we sit in now."
Next up for a club that is relocating to Zebulon, N.C., for the 2012 season is the best-of-5 Mills Cup Finals. The Indians will face the winner of the North Division series between Frederick and Potomac.
"Monday or Tuesday, we'll be ready to come out guns blazing," Holbert said.
In other Carolina League playoff action:
Keys 5, Nationals 1
Scott Copeland allowed a run over seven innings and combined with Ryan Berry on a three-hitter as Frederick took a 2-1 series lead. Manny Machado and Aaron Baker drove in two runs apiece and Jonathan Schoop scored three times for the Keys. Box score