After a slow start to the season, Class A Kannapolis manager Justin Jirschele noticed his team come together as it climbed the standings.
The camaraderie produced the South Atlantic League Southern Division first-half title as the White Sox clinched with a 5-3 victory over West Virginia on Sunday at Intimidators Stadium.
Gameday box score
"It's awesome," Jirschele said. "Anytime you can do what we've accomplished this half, it means you're winning a lot of games and it makes it fun for the guys and makes it fun for us as well and the town of Kannapolis."
The Intimidators got off to a 1-7 start before wrapping up their first playoff appearance since 2009.
"They grinded through it, they kept their approach, they kept working hard each and every day when they came to the ballpark and started seeing some wins rack up and got a little bit of a taste of it," the skipper said. "Down the stretch here, they saw we had a chance at this thing and they wanted to go get it and they did."
A big part of Kannapolis' success was a pitching staff that leads the league with a 1.14 WHIP and ranks third with a 3.16 ERA.
"They came out each and every night, no matter who it was, and they weren't afraid of anybody, they were going to go right after guys, pitch to contact and have our defense work," Jirschele said. "They were fantastic for us the entire half."
In a back-and-forth clincher against the Power, reliever Kevin Escorcia (3-3) struck out two and worked around two hits in a scoreless sixth for the win. Mike Morrison retried the final four batters for his 10th save.
White Sox No. 21 prospect Micker Adolfo led off the second with his eighth homer of the season and Seby Zavala added his league-leading 13th
"[Adolfo] got a good taste of confidence here early in the year as he started getting hot in middle of the order and he's staying healthy," Jirschele said. "He's staying to his approach as well and his routine and he's got the confidence right now. He's finally getting a taste of it and he's going out there each and every day and he's playing his butt off for us. It's just fun to watch."
South Atlantic League
Greenville 4, Rome 3
Braves No. 29 prospect Brett Cumberland slugged a game-tying homer in the bottom of the eighth, but Mitchell Gunsolus ripped a go-ahead double in the ninth to send the Drive to the Northern Division first-half crown. Gameday box score
Frederick 11, Lynchburg 5
Despite a lopsided loss, the Hillcats secured the Northern Division first-half title via the tiebreaker after Salem was swept in a doubleheader. Sam Haggerty, Ka'ai Tom, Claudio Bautista and Anthony Miller homered for Lynchburg, which reached the Mills Cup playoffs for the sixth straight year. Gameday box score