Double-A Altoona manager Michael Ryan has a difficult time understating the impact Cole Tucker has for his team.
"We have a saying we tell him all the time," the skipper said. "'You go, we go.'"
When the team found out the Pirates' No. 5 prospect was placed on the disabled list with a fractured left hand on Saturday, it could have been a devastating blow. Instead, the Curve came together to punch their ticket to the Eastern League Finals.
Video: Curve sweep semifinal series
Austin Coley gave up one run over seven innings to lead Altoona past Bowie, 6-1, on Saturday to complete a three-game sweep of the best-of-5 semifinals. The right-hander surrendered six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
Gameday box score
Coley (1-0) yielded a home run to 18th-ranked Orioles prospect D.J. Stewart leading off the fourth inning, but otherwise limited the Baysox to three baserunners over the first six frames. The 2014 eighth-round pick allowed three men to reach base in the seventh before escaping the jam with the help of a double play lineout by Stephen Wilkerson.
"Coley has been, honestly, our most consistent starter all year," Ryan said of the Belmont University product, who went 6-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 29 games, including 23 starts. "He kept a really good offensive club off-balance. I'm glad he was on the mound tonight."
Filling in for Tucker at shortstop after playing predominantly at second base this season, Pablo Reyes homered, singled and scored two runs for Altoona.
Video: Curve's Reyes belts a homer
"Offensively, we always tell him he can be the best player in each game," Ryan said of Reyes. "He's the best player on the field whenever he wants."
Jin-De Jhang tripled and drove in two runs, while Wyatt Mathisen belted a two-run shot in the sixth for the Curve.
Aderlin Rodriguez led Bowie with three hits. Righty Lucas Long (0-1) yielded three runs on three hits with three walks and one punchout over four innings in the loss.
Despite winning five of 19 matchups with the Baysox in the regular season, Altoona outscored them, 16-5, in the series while taking the first two games on the road. Ryan credited a dominant pitching staff, as second-ranked Pirates prospect Mitch Keller and Alex McRae turned in solid starts prior to Coley's outing.
Complete playoff coverage
"It was nice to be able to [clinch] it at home, just as a testament to the first two games that we had to get done in Bowie," he said. "These guys played absolutely amazingly. We got three unbelievable starts. That's why we're celebrating tonight."
The Curve will meet Trenton in the best-of-5 Eastern League Championship Series.
In other playoff action
Trenton 9, Binghamton 1
Jeff Hendrix and Thairo Estrada collected three hits and two RBIs apiece to help the Thunder win the best-of-5 series, 3-1. Trenton starter Will Carter (1-0) gave up a run on three hits and fanned five over 6 1/3 frames. Mets No. 10 prospect Peter Alonso drove in the lone run for the Rumble Ponies. Box score