Whoever first coined the old baseball adage, "Offense wins games, pitching and defense wins championships" had games like Thursday's Northwest League championship in mind.
Buoyed by an arsenal of brilliant arms, Salem Keizer outlasted the Tri-City Dust Devils, 2-1, in a 13-inning marathon contest that secured the Volcanoes their third league title in the past four years.
"This was phenomenal on both sides," Volcanoes manger Tom Trebelhorn said of the 3½ hour showdown. "We played pretty consistently the entire year. We just had guys that were really excited about getting here.
"The bench was terrific in pulling for other guys, and it was a hard-fought, excellent baseball series."
After losing the first game in the best-of-5 set, the short-season Giants affiliate posted back-to-back wins before Thursday's win secured the team's fifth title in the last decade. They also rallied to the crown past Tri-City for the second time in three years.
Former Northwest Pitcher of the Week Wilber Bucardo gave up a run on two hits with three strikeouts over five innings before handing the ball to David Quinowski. The 23-year-old right-hander, who missed all of 2008 due to injury, struck out eight and allowed one hit over three scoreless frames. Gary Moran picked up the win, tossing goose eggs in the 12th and 13th innings.
Ryan Lollis, who had previously doubled, delivered the walk-off RBI with a center-field single that plated Dan Cook. The Volcanoes' only other run came courtesy of Aaron Lowenstein's fifth-inning sacrifice bunt.
Although the emphasis in the Minor Leagues is to develop players to reach the Majors, Trebelhorn thinks winning championship is an important component.
"I think [winning the Northwest League title] gets kids excited about their careers and wanting to work hard in the offseason to advance in the organization," he said.
"It's a great way to start first year-players, and any given night we had eight or nine guys that were taken in the [2009 Draft]. I don't think you develop as a team without winning. It's immeasurable as far as what it creates for the team in such an individualistic sport."