Brendan Katin went 2-for-4 with three RBIs as the Huntsville Stars swept their best-of-5 Southern League Division Series with a 7-2 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts on Saturday.
The clinching victory culminated a complete turnaround for the Stars. Huntsville finished with the worst record in the first half at 24-45 but went 43-26 in the second half to claim the North Division title.
"We showed a lot of heart and courage to get into the playoffs," Stars second baseman Callix Crabbe said. "I'm excited. I was here for both halves. The first half didn't go my way. For me to come from the first half to here, it's special to me. I've had a dry period and a great period, so I've been through it all. I'm grateful for this."
The Stars raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening frame of the clincher as the first five batters reached against starter Tyler Pelland (0-1). Steve Moss led off with a double, Crabbe was hit with a pitch and Ryan Braun singled to load the bases. Katin blooped a single to right field to make it 2-0.
"Katin's hit was key," Crabbe said. "It was a tough at-bat. Pelland made some tough pitches and he was fortunate to get a bat on the ball. It was perfect placement where he hit it."
Brad Nelson followed with an RBI double and Ron Acuna lifted a sacrifice fly.
"That first inning, to me, that was the biggest part of the game," Crabbe said. "To be able to make a pitcher think about that and have a four-run deficit puts a lot of pressure on him and the team."
Pelland didn't make it out of the fourth, walking three straight batters to begin the inning. Crabbe chased him with a two-run single and came home on Katin's base hit to give Huntsville a 7-2 lead.
"That was the biggest at-bat of the whole season for me," Crabbe said. "Right there, Pelland was struggling. I didn't want to help him out. I felt like I could hit him because he had command issues right there."
From there, the Stars' pitching took over. Manny Parra provided Huntsville's third straight strong outing, giving up two runs while scattering 10 hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out eight.
The bullpen followed with four scoreless frames. Matt Yeatman allowed one hit in two innings, Chris Mabeus yielded a single in the eighth and Joe Valentine pitched a hitless ninth.
In Game 1, Corey Thurman and two relievers combined on a two-hitter in a 2-0 triumph. On Friday, Yovani Gallardo yielded one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts over six innings in a 12-3 victory.
Pelland was charged with seven runs on five hits with two strikeouts and five walks in three-plus innings.
Joey Votto provided the Lookouts' offense with a two-run double in the third. Drew Anderson contributed three hits.
Huntsville will face Montgomery in the best-of-5 Southern League Championship Series, with the opener set for Thursday.