No win, no matter: Huntsville clinches title

With Smokies loss, Stars secure first-half championship in SL North

Huntsville righty Tyler Cravy is 8-1 with a 1.76 ERA and 0.86 WHIP through 12 games, including 10 starts. (Huntsville Stars)

By Mark Emery / | June 3, 2014 3:03 AM

In the Stars' last season in Alabama, Huntsville became the first club in the Minors to clinch a postseason berth.

The team entered Monday needing a win over Jackson or a Tennessee loss to Birmingham to clinch a Southern League North first-half championship. The Smokies dropped their eighth in a row, 10-5, so Huntsville's rain-shortened 9-4 defeat later in the evening stung a little less.

While next season will begin with the Stars playing in Biloxi, Mississippi, this season will end with them attempting to capture the organization's fourth Southern League title.

"It's very special. It's great," Huntsville manager Carlos Subero said. "We just had our bus driver, Cliff, come here with watery eyes. You can see the emotion in the park this year, with people that want to support the club and know that it's going somewhere else.

"So it's special. Hopefully, we can go all the way through and bring a championship home to a town that's been hosting Minor League Baseball for 30 years."

Under the direction of Subero, batting coach Sandy Guerrero and pitching coach Chris Hook, the Brewer's Double-A affiliate is 39-19 through the year's first 58 games. Before losing the first two games of June, the Stars closed May with an eight-game winning streak. They finished the month 23-7, after posting a 16-10 record in April.

The Stars' first-half standouts include pitcher Tyler Cravy, who is 8-1 with a 1.76 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, and first baseman Nick Ramirez, who is batting .267/.333/.489 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs.

The pitching staff's 3.06 ERA ranks second in the league and first in WHIP at 1.18. Offensively, the Stars have scored 271 runs -- second-most in the league -- and get on base at a league-best .340 clip.

Though Huntsville has a pedestrian .245 batting average, that figure jumps to .272 with runners in scoring position.

"Every night, it's a different kid coming through," Subero said.

Between the players' clutch hitting and the fans' heartfelt support, the Stars' season has taken on a singular feeling. Not that it's anywhere near finished yet.

"There's 82 games left. We can't lose sight of what's ahead," Subero said. "I think it will be a great challenge. It'll show a lot of their character. We've still got 12 games left in the first half, we've got 70 in the second half and you've got to approach it the right way, the same way you've been approaching these past 58 games."

Mark Emery is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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