Rosa boosts Suns to Southern League title

Earns playoff MVP honors after slugging fourth postseason homer

Jacksonville has won league championships in 1996, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2014. (Jacksonville Suns)

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | September 13, 2014 1:30 AM

Viosergy Rosa and the Jacksonville Suns scorched their way through the postseason so quickly, it may take them a little while to realize what they've done.

"It went by really fast," Rosa admitted. "It's crazy how this is my reality. It hasn't sunken in yet. It's a little surreal."

The Marlins prospect homered, singled and drove in four runs Friday night to help the Suns beat Chattanooga, 6-1. The win completed a three-game sweep -- the first in the Southern League Finals since 2002 -- and gave Jacksonville its third title in six years and sixth overall.

"This is the stuff I visualized from a long time ago. Everything worked as planned," Rosa said. "We said, 'Man, we're going to make a run for it. We've got to sweep these guys.'"

The Suns won 16 of their last 17 games dating back to the regular season.

"I'm glad I could be a part of that because the team was winning before I got here [on Aug. 12]," Rosa said. "Everybody in that locker room, everybody did their part. We stayed together and we had each and everybody's back. It was just awesome baseball. It felt like a family."

Rosa hit .379 (11-for-29) with four homers, three doubles, 14 RBIs and five runs scored in seven postseason games and was named Southern League playoff MVP.

"I've always been like that, even as a kid. In the postseason, I'm straight locked in," said the Bronx native. "Some at-bats, I didn't get to score, but I said, 'Forget it, I'll have another at-bat.'"

His home run in the clincher came in the bottom of the first and established a 3-0 lead in support of fourth-ranked Marlins prospect Justin Nicolino.

"It felt great. I was definitely just trying to hit a single to get that RBI in," Rosa said. "I knew if we had the first punch, having Nicolino on the bump would be the difference-maker."

Rosa made it 5-0 with an RBI single in the fifth.

"I was ecstatic because when it's 3-0, teams come back from that," he said. "They get a walk or two, and ... but you can't hit a five-run home run. From there, I knew if we played crisp defense, we wouldn't even need to score anymore, knowing how our bullpen and pitching has been."

Nicolino gave up a double to Bobby Coyle in the first and a two-out single to Daniel Mayora. With runners on the corners, the 22-year-old southpaw fanned top Dodgers prospect Corey Seager.

Nicolino put the leadoff man on in the second, third and fifth and ended up scattering seven hits and two walks over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out three and improved to 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the postseason.

During the regular season, Nicolino was 14-4 with a 2.85 ERA and was named the league's Most Outstanding Pitcher.

"I don't know what to say. It's been a great year all year," Nicolino said. "I couldn't be happier."

Suns manager Andy Barkett thought Nicolino's title-clinching gem was an appropriate way to close the season.

"He's been our horse all year, him and [Jose] Urena," Barkett said. "Nicolino had a big game tonight. He went almost seven solid innings and put up zeros. You couldn't ask him for anything more."

When Barkett removed his starter in the seventh, the fans in Jacksonville gave Nicolino a loud ovation. The skipper sent him back out from the dugout for a curtain call.

"I didn't want to [leave the game], honestly," Nicolino said. "But I started falling behind and I was a little tired. Barky told to me go out and tip my cap. That ovation, I got chills just thinking about it right now, and I almost had tears."

Reid Redman struck out three over 1 1/3 perfect innings and Matt Ramsey gave up a run on two hits in the ninth.

Austin Nola doubled, walked twice, scored twice and drove in a run for the Suns, while Marlins No. 16 prospect Austin Barnes and Joe Benson both chipped in two hits.

"I can't say enough about this team," Barkett said. "Words can't describe what they did. It's a testament to the Marlins players, coaching staff and front office. It's been one of the proudest moments of my baseball career. It's something else to see them achieve this. I couldn't be prouder."

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More