A 45-year championship drought ended on Sunday in Batavia.
Hector Cardenas pitched six strong innings and Shane Peterson drove in a pair of runs as the Muckdogs beat the Jamestown Jammers, 9-3, to capture the New York-Penn League title.
"It was pretty much the most gratifying experience I've ever had," said Peterson. "I know it's only short-season and 80 games, but it felt like it was what we worked for as a team. It felt like we worked for something and finally got it."
Cardenas (1-0) held the Jammers to one run on four hits and a walk for the clinching win at Dwyer Stadium. It's the first league title for the club since the Batavia Pirates won the crown in 1963.
"He was huge, especially the way the wind was blowing out," Peterson said of the 21-year-old left-hander. "It was howling and he was great keeping the ball down. Our pitchers overall kept us in the playoffs and got us here, so it was huge."
Peterson, who hit .409 in the postseason, went 3-for-5 with an RBI single and a run-scoring double. His third hit highlighted a five-run eighth inning as Batavia put the game out of reach.
"It's great, it just adds to this excitement and everything when you do well and you win," he said. "I would have been just as excited if I'd done badly and we still won."
Batavia is the first St. Louis affiliate to win a championship since the Palm Beach Cardinals claimed the 2005 Florida State League crown. The Muckdogs, who won the Pinckney Division with a 46-28 record, joined the Cards' system last year after two decades as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
"We stayed on the field quit a while, thanked the fans, let it all out," Peterson said. "We did kind of a minor celebration when we won the division, but tonight we popped some bottles, just let it all out. This win was 10 times as good. It's over, there's nothing left to do."
"It's been a heck of a season, we're just happy to finish it off tonight and not go to the third game," added Batavia manager Mark DeJohn. "We ended up doing it and were really happy."
Hard-throwing closer Adam Reifer sealed the championship, striking out three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings for his second playoff save. The All-Star right-hander recorded 22 during the regular season.
Offensively, it was more of the same in the playoffs for Peterson. The cleanup hitter out of Long Beach State hit .409 (13-for-32) with four RBIs against Jamestown this summer.
"This was really the first time I've won something, so to come out here and finally make it, it's an experience I've never really had before and won't forget," he said.
Batavia took the lead in the third when Peterson singled home Colt Sedbrook, Charles Cutler scored on a groundout, Chris Swauger lifted a sacrifice fly and Frederick Parejo ripped an RBI double.
Parejo, who went 4-for-4, scored on an error to spark the five-run eighth as the Muckdogs scored on a bases-loaded walk, two sacrifice flies and Peterson's double.
"We wanted to go out there, score early and play relaxed," Peterson said. "As a team, we play the best when we're relaxed. We didn't worry about winning or losing. We just had a lot looser atmosphere."
"These kids did a great job all year long," added DeJohn. "Cardenas and [Scott] Gorgen and Adam Veres came up really big in the playoffs. We couldn't be happier about bringing a championship to Batavia, New York. They haven't won it in how many years? So it's great."
Jamestown starter Dan Jennings (0-1) allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings to suffer the loss. The All-Star lefty struck out two and hit a batter. Brandon Todd retired one batter and was charged with five runs.
Ben Lasater hit a two-run double in the eighth for the Jammers after Justin Bass slugged a solo homer in the sixth.
Peterson credited DeJohn for keeping the winning formula going all summer.
"He was great, he kept everybody loose," Peterson said. "He's always joking around. But when we make a mistake, he was the first to tell us. And if we did something good, he'd be the first to congratulate you. He did a good job of not letting you get too down or too high."
"It's just real satisfying," said DeJohn, who looked back to a come-from-behind 13-9 win over Lowell in the semifinals as a turning point.
"We were down 8-2, we were dead virtually. They put the nail in the coffin and we opened it up and got up off the deck and won that game."
DeJohn said a league title was never on his mind back on Opening Day.
"We started out 0-3 and when the season starts you never think about winning," he added. "It's just a wonderful feeling, we deserve it. We beat a team that was very good."