Sidewinders stand tall in Showdown

Tucson bests Toledo to take home inaugural game's Triple-A crown

(Bryan Terry)

By Kevin Czerwinski / | September 19, 2006 4:50 PM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The long ball was expected to be an integral part of the Bricktown Showdown from the moment Toledo captured the Governors' Cup, earning entrance into the inaugural event that would determine the best Triple-A team in the land.

Larry's Wall Bangers had smashed their way through the International League with reckless abandon, so why not take their act on the road and lay waste to the scoreboards and outfield signage at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark.

Well, the home run did play an integral part in the Showdown's outcome. But it was Tucson -- the perceived skinny little kid on the block -- which went yard, not the big, bad Mud Hens. The Sidewinders, after hitting only two home runs during the Pacific Coast League playoffs, collected the game's only long ball as it bested Toledo, 5-2, before a near-sellout crowd of 12,572 to win the Bricktown Showdown and claim the title of Triple-A champion on Tuesday.

Scott Hairston, who went was 2-for-4 with an RBI, was named the game's Most Valuable Player. But it was Tucson catcher Juan Brito who accounted for the go-ahead blow, a solo homer off Eulogio De La Cruz (0-1) to lead off the fifth inning and snap a 1-1 tie. The Sidewinders actually hit more home runs during the regular season (160) than Toledo (152), but the Mud Hens' 22 roundtrippers in 10 playoff games overshadowed the two homers Tucson hit en route to capturing the Pacific Coast League crown.

The Sidewinders tacked on three runs in the eighth, two on a Matt Erickson single, to break the game open. Toledo tacked on a run in the ninth on a David Espinosa single.

"There are no losers here," Tucson manager Chip Hale said. "It was a very different night because it was a one-game situation. That's a team that fought to get through the International League and had to win a playoff game just to get in. And for one night, we did a good job and scored a few more runs than they did. That's all.

"When you play a team that has as much power as they do, and that can explode at any time with the way they hit home runs and have big innings, you win 90 games during the year but you could lose this one game and not be champions."

Former Tulane star Micah Owings (1-0) earned the victory, extending his unbeaten streak to 22 games after going five solid innings. Though the Mud Hens had runners on in each of the five innings Owings worked, the right-hander was able to work out of each jam, either of his own accord or as the result of a baserunning mistake by Toledo.

Owings fanned six, walked four and gave up five hits, laboring through his 100 pitches. He got out of his final jam in the fifth when Ryan Ludwick grounded a one-out single but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

"There's a reason he's our No. 1 pitcher," Hale said. "I think he'd be the first to admit that he didn't have a feel for the ball. But he found a way to get it done."

The Sidewinders jumped on De La Cruz in the first as Donnie Sadler led off by sailing a ball to the wall in deep right-center field. He ended up with a triple and scored two batters later on Hairston's sacrifice fly. Hairston almost gave Tucson a 2-0 lead in the third when he lined a two-out double into the left-field corner. Jon Weber, who had singled, tried to score from first but was thrown out at the plate.

Max St-Pierre, who hit .333 (4-for-12) in the Governors' Cup playoffs, knotted the score in the bottom of the fourth with a single that scored Raburn.

Tucson second baseman Erickson singled through a drawn-in infield with the bases loaded to snap a 20 at-bat hitless streak in the eighth.

"It was a pretty good game, but we let it slip there a little in that last inning," said Toledo manager Larry Parrish, whose team failed to hit a homer for the first time since the International League playoffs opener against Charlotte, a span of eight games. "But before that it was 2-1. If we had gotten a big hit here or there, it would have made a difference. We didn't hit any homers today and when we don't hit homers we don't win. We hit some well, but they just missed."

Kevin Czerwinski is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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