MYRTLE BEACH, SC - In their first half-season as the Texas Rangers' Advanced-A minor league affiliate, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are postseason bound for the first time since 2008. The Birds held on for a 6-5 win over the Frederick Keys at BB&T Coastal Field on Friday and with Kinston's 8-0 loss in Lynchburg, they clinched the first-half championship of the Carolina League's Southern Division.
All-Star Joe Wieland pitched into the eighth inning, Ryan Kelly picked up a big out to end that inning, and Johan Yan's 1-2-3 ninth nailed down the victory for Myrtle Beach. Leury Garcia keyed the offense with a home run in a three-hit night, knocking in three and scoring three times as well. Postseason tickets will go on sale at the BB&T Coastal Field box office at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The postseason spot became official not long after the Myrtle Beach victory when Lynchburg locked down their win over second-place Kinston. Many former Pelicans helped their old team in the win. Zeke Spruill pitched eight shutout innings and former Birds Adam Milligan and Phil Gosselin cracked home runs.
The postseason is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, September 7 as the Pelicans will host the Southern Division's second-half winner or wild card team for the first of two games of a best-of-five series. The Keys are in the playoffs as well as Northern Division champs, these two clubs have locked up half of the four postseason berths.
For the second straight night, the Pelicans scored quickly in the first inning. The first three batters reached to load the bases before Vinny DiFazio plated the game's first run with an RBI groundout.
Tyler Kolodny evened the score for the Keys with a solo home run off Wieland in the top of the second, but the Birds immediately took the lead back in the bottom half against starter Nathan Moreau (7-4), who took the loss. Leury Garcia singled home David Paisano and Jared Prince followed with a double that scored Garcia from first for a 3-1 advantage.
Myrtle Beach piled on with three more tallies in the third. Santiago Chirino's sacrifice fly brought home Mitch Hilligoss and Garcia added his second home run of the season as the two-run shot put the Birds up 6-1. It was the first out-of-the-park homer for the shortstop; he hit an inside-the-parker on June 3 in Lynchburg.
Wieland crusied through the middle innings after a fourth-inning double by Jonathan Schoop trimmed the lead to 6-2. Things got dicey in the sixth when he put men at first and third with no outs. He struck out Schoop and induced a 5-4-3 double play from Miguel Abreu to escape the jam.
Wieland got into trouble in the eighth after his throwing error on what would have been the last out of the inning extended the frame. Kolodny singled and Jonathan Schoop doubled in a pair to cut the lead to 6-4. Ryan Kelly was summoned from the bullpen and gave up a bloop single to Miguel Abreu to score Schoop that pulled the Keys to within one. The righty reliever buckled down to get Jacob Julius to fly out to right to preserve the lead.
In the ninth, Yan (S, 7) got Brian Ward to ground out before he struck out Garabez Rosa for the second out of the ninth. Steve Bumbry lifted a fly ball to left and when Jared Bolden squeezed it the game was over.
The Myrtle Beach ace Wieland (6-3) picked up the win in his seven and two-thirds innings of work. He allowed five runs, only two earned, on seven hits. The right-hander struck out six without walking a batter.
The third game of the four-game series is set for Saturday night. Kennil Gomez gets a spot start for the Pelicans against Ryohei Tanaka of Frederick. First pitch at BB&T Coastal Field scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Tickets for all Pelicans home games are available at the BB&T Coastal Field box office, MyrtleBeachPelicans.com, and by phone at 843-918-6000 or 877-918-TIXX.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.