Kuhl, Marauders wrap up division early

Pirates righty delivers in morning start to clinch FSL second-half title

The Bradenton Marauders clinched their third playoff spot in five seasons with their first win Sunday. (Bradenton Marauders)

By Sam Dykstra and Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | August 31, 2014 6:20 PM ET

It was the earliest of times. It was the latest of times.

Put in a non-Dickensian way, the Bradenton Marauders needed a win in either of their games in Sunday's doubleheader -- the last day on the Florida State League schedule -- to clinch the South Division second-half title. First pitch was at 10:30 a.m. ET.

"We've had a few of those early starts this season, but I hadn't actually started one myself," said right-handed starter Chad Kuhl. "I just tried to make it as normal as possible. I had a meeting one hour early, so 9:30, and wanted to simulate every thing the same, just for a 10:30 start instead of 6:30."

Kuhl held visiting Charlotte to two runs on three hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings to lead the Marauders to the 3-2 seven-inning win needed to capture the second-half title. It was the team's first division crown since 2011 and the third in five seasons.

With the win, the 21-year-old, who finished the season with a 13-5 record and 3.46 ERA, moved past Pirates' top prospect Tyler Glasnow for the team lead in wins and into a tie with Brevard County's Tyler Wagner for the FSL lead.

Because of his relative success in the FSL this season, Kuhl admitted he didn't quite feel any pressure when he took the mound.

"You kind of want to go about everything the same way," he said. "You have to be yourself. Do what got you've done to get you there, and let the chips fall where they're going to fall."

To that end, the 2013 ninth-round pick relied on a heavy dose of ground-ball outs to subdue the Stone Crabs, recording 11 of them with only two flyouts. He left in the sixth inning with a 3-2 lead, having thrown 83 pitches, 48 for strikes. The Marauders grabbed the advantage on Walker Gourley's two-run single in the previous frame.

Right-hander Yhonathan Barrios tossed 1 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing only one walk, to lock down his 11th save and clinch the win.

The Marauders, who rode a season-ending five-game winning streak to go 43-27 during the second half and 78-61 over the course of the entire season, mobbed the mound to celebrate but were forced to stay relatively subdued until after the second game -- a 4-1 win -- when they could finally break out the commemorative bottles in the McKechnie Field home locker room.

Headed by Kuhl and FSL Pitcher of the Year Glasnow (12-5, 1.74 ERA, 157 strikeouts), Bradenton relied heavily on its pitching staff, which sat second on the circuit with a 3.27 ERA this season, to take the title. But Sunday's first starter spread the credit around the locker room ahead of his team's first playoff game Tuesday at home against South Division first-half champs Fort Myers.

"We're coming together in all facets right now," Kuhl said. "The pitching carried us throughout the year, the bullpen's been outstanding and you can really feel the bats coming around these past few weeks. All three are right where we want to be."

Other clinchings:

International League
Pawtucket 10, Rochester 4

The Red Sox outlasted a lengthy rain delay to finish off their win over the Red Wings and wrap up the International League's Wild Card. All nine Pawtucket players batted in the five-run fourth inning. Alex Hassan and Ryan Lavarnway drove in three runs apiece. Boston's No. 2 prospect Henry Owens struck out nine in six innings for the victory. Gameday box score

Pacific Coast League
Omaha 13, Colorado Springs 8

Omaha captured its fourth straight division title, securing the PCL American Northern Division with the rain-delayed win over Colorado Springs. Rehabbing Major Leaguer Eric Hosmer, Johnny Giavotella and Paulo Orlando went yard. With the playoff berth, the Storm Chasers are seeking their third Pacific Coast League crown in fourth seasons. Gameday box score

Southern League
Chattanooga 3, Tennessee 2

Needing to sweep their Sunday twinbill to overtake the Smokies for the North Division title, the Lookouts did just that. Chattanooga thumped Tennessee, 9-0, in the seven-inning opener, riding a complete-game shutout from Steve Smith and a two-run homer from top Dodgers prospect Corey Seager. In the nightcap, Chris O'Brien tripled home the game-tying and go-ahead runs in the sixth. Gameday box score

California League
High Desert 9, San Jose 6

High Desert plated eight runs between the first and second innings en route to clinching the South Division Wild Card with Rancho Cucamonga's loss at Lake Elsinore. Jamal Austin ripped four singles and scored twice for the Mavericks, while No. 5 Mariners prospect Gabby Guerrero blasted a three-run homer and drove in a game-high four runs. Box score

South Atlantic League
Hagerstown 5, Lakewood 3

The Suns plated two tiebreaking runs on a fielder's choice by Drew Ward and a throwing error by second baseman Austin Davidson in the eighth. Hagerstown's Nick Pivetta, the Nationals' No. 19 prospect, allowed two runs on six hits while striking out three and not issuing a walk over five frames to earn the win and the South Atlantic League Northern Division title. Box score

Northwest League
Vancouver 5, Spokane 3

The Minor Leagues' lone Canadian team finished off the Northwest League North Division second-half title after missing out on a first-half crown due to tiebreaker rules. Four different players drove in a run for the Canadians, and No. 20 Blue Jays prospect Matthew Smoral allowed two runs on three hits over five innings to earn the win. Box score

Sam Dykstra and Tyler Maun are contributors to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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