Nick Madrigal had already won a title in 2018, helping lead Oregon State to its third College World Series crown in June. So it shouldn't have been much of a surprise that with another one on the line Monday afternoon, the former Beaver stood tall.
The No. 4 White Sox prospect went 4-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and two stolen bases to lead Class A Advanced Winston-Salem to a 5-3 win over Down East at Grainger Stadium. With the win on the final day of the season, the Dash (43-25) finished with the same second-half record as Carolina League Southern Division rival Buies Creek but took home the second-half division title with a superior overall record (84-54 vs. 80-57). After securing the first-half crown, this marks the first time since 2012 that the Dash have won the division in both halves of a season.
"Everyone's really happy over here," Madrigal said. "We were trying to do it yesterday, but it just didn't work out. But overall, it's a great feeling, especially for the guys who have been around all season. It's a relief for them to set a goal like this and actually achieve it. I'm just really happy we could come together and pull this out for everyone on this team."
Gameday box score
The 21-year-old's four knocks Monday came in many varities. He singled the opposite way to right field in both the first and sixth innings. He picked up a bunt base hit in the third as an error by Wood Ducks third baseman Andretty Cordero allowed Luis Gonzalez to score from third and give the Dash a 2-0 lead. Finally, he doubled to left in the eighth and scored the go-ahead run on Blake Rutherford's single.
In all, Madrigal's four hits marked a career high for the 2018 fourth overall pick, besting the three collected he on July 17 and July 21 with Class A Kannapolis. He also extended his season-ending hitting streak to eight games, during which he's gone 14-for-35 (.400) with two doubles, two walks and only one strikeout. That streak also pushed Madrigal's season average -- inlcuding his time with Kannapolis and Chicago's Arizona League affiliate -- from .275 to .303 and meant he finished his regular-season time with the Dash with a .306/.355/.347 line over 26 games.
The 5-foot-7 second baseman has long been known for his potentially plus-plus hit tool, dating back to his days at Oregon State, where he finished with a three-year NCAA average of .361 and minuscule strikeout rate of 5.2 percent. His bat, which admittedly possesses little power as of yet, is a big reason why MLB.com considers him to be the game's No. 32 overall prospect. He may have been forgiven had he petered out at the end of a season that saw him play 42 games in college (including the postseason) and 43 in the pros while missing time with a hairline fracture in his hand in the spring and a hamstring injury in the summer. Instead, it's been more of the same from the California native down the stretch -- putting the ball in play a ton and picking up singles in bunches as a result.
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"I've felt good at the plate since I've transitioned to pro ball," Madrigal said. "I haven't changed anything about who I am or my approach to hitting, but it can definitely wear on you if hits aren't falling and you're not doing well from that aspect. But I always have a positive mindset no matter what. My body feels good at this point in the season. I'm just lucky to be on a team like this and hopefully we can all keep it going."
Winston-Salem will face Buies Creek, which qualified as a Southern Division Wild Card, in a best-of-5 semifinal series starting Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. The Astros will host the first two games before the Dash play on their home turf in Game 3 and, if necessary, Games 4 and 5. Madrigal may have only plugged himself into the Winston-Salem lineup when he was promoted on Aug. 2, but based on his time in Omaha in June, he's already got a good idea of what it's going to take to add a Mills Cup to the already impressive 2018 section of his resume.
"It definitely takes everyone," he said. "You can't win games in the posteason unless you're getting the best of the best from top to bottom on your roster. Even guys on the bench can do something special, like come up and get a big hit. I'm excited to see what we can come together and do here for the next week or so."
No. 15 White Sox prospect Gavin Sheets hit a solo homer in the seventh to tie Monday game at 3-3. The long ball was his seventh of the season through 120 games.
Top Rangers prospect Leody Taveras went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk from the leadoff spot for Down East.