Double-A Chattanooga punched its playoff ticket in June, but that didn't keep Minnesota's Double-A affiliate from dominating the Southern League all the way to the end.
The Lookouts clinched the circuit's North Division second-half crown with an 11-2 rout of the second-place Montgomery Biscuits on Thursday night at AT&T Field. Minnesota's No. 2 prospect Nick Gordon homered and plated three runs and T.J. White finished a single shy of the cycle.
Gameday box score
The club won the first-half title on June 16 with a 42-28 record and improved in the second half by going 45-21 with four games remaining in the regular season.
"Obviously, clinching the first half is nice and you can get guys some rest and get things lined up," Chattanooga manager Jake Mauer said. "To the guys' credit, they really battled and kept battling here in the second half. We've had some changes, not only with our bullpen, but also some of our position players and guys seemed to step up."
The Lookouts lead the league with 645 runs, anchored at the top of the lineup by Gordon and 17th-ranked Twins prospect LaMonte Wade alongside such veterans as White and Jonathan Rodriguez. They have spent all or most of the season with the team.
The pitching staff went considerably more turnover -- especially in the bullpen -- but still sports the Southern League's top ERA at 3.15. Top pitching prospect Stephen Gonsalves went to Triple-A Rochester in early August, but Chattanooga has ridden talented arms such as Minnesota's fourth-ranked prospect Fernando Romero and No. 9 Kohl Stewartin his place. Right-hander Zack Littell (5-0), acquired from the Yankees at the deadline for Major League veteran lefty Jaime Garcia, allowed two runs -- one earned -- on two hits with three walks and four strikeouts in six innings Thursday.
"The nice thing is there have been contributions from different guys most of the year, and it's been different guys that step up and carry us for stretches," Mauer said. "Some nights, it's been our starting pitching in particular and then the bullpen has been pretty good the whole year too."
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After closing the season against the Biscuits, the teams will meet again when the playoffs begin Wednesday.
"It's kind of unusual the way the schedule unfolds," Mauer said with a laugh. "They've got a lot of good young players over there too. It's going to be an interesting nine to 10 days here."
Pacific Coast League
Albuquerque 3, Reno 0
Despite their loss, the Aces clinched the Pacific Northern Division title by virtue of Fresno's 5-1 loss to El Paso. Reno paced the circuit with 833 runs scored. D-backs No. 27 prospect Christian Walker put together a career year with 32 homers and 113 RBIs. Gameday box score
Jacksonville 5, Pensacola 2
In their inaugural season, the Jumbo Shrimp locked up the South Division second-half title by knocking off the first-half champion Blue Wahoos. Marlins No. 25 prospect John Norwood led the way with a homer, a triple and three RBIs. Right-hander Chris Mazza gave up two runs on six hits over 6 1/3 frames to move into sixth in the league with a 3.01 ERA. Leadoff man Braxton Lee went 1-for-3 and sits atop the circuit with a .312 average. Gameday box score
South Atlantic League
Charleston 10, Hickory 5
The RiverDogs nailed down the Southern Division second-half title. Dermis Garcia smacked a three-run homer, while Carlos Vidal and Brandon Wagner plated two runs apiece in the victory. Gameday box score