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Kinston sweeps way to Mills Cup

Baserunners' interference call gives Indians final win over Keys
September 11, 2006
FREDERICK, Md. -- Kinston capped a three-game sweep of host Frederick with a 2-1 11th inning victory on Monday night to win the Carolina League championship.

In a bizarre ending that left the crowd stunned and sputtering, the final out came when the Keys' Morgan Clendenin was ruled out on baserunners' interference.

The inning had already been a wild one when the call was made.

After the Indians had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the 11th, the Keys mounted an improbable one-out rally against closer Kyle Collins.

Arturo Rivas got things started with a double off the left-field wall, and pinch-hitter Clendenin followed with a bloop single to put runners at the corners.

Travis Brown failed to connect on a suicide-squeeze call and Rivas was called out at home plate for the second out.

Frederick still had some fight left, though, as Brown coaxed a walk to bring leadoff hitter Paco Figueroa to the plate. He drilled the ball to third baseman Rodney Choy Foo who appeared to kick the ball away, which would have given the Keys a bases-loaded scenario with the hot-hitting Tripper Johnson coming to bat.

Instead, however, Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh appealed the play to the umpiring crew.

"I thought the runner interfered with it and went way out of the baseline," Sarbaugh said. "And I thought he nicked Choy Foo and that's what I argued."

The four-man crew convened to discuss the situation and approached Keys manager Bien Figueroa, who was coaching third base.

The five animatedly discussed the situation as the crowd sat at the edge of their seats, Sarbaugh stood down the third baseline with his arms crossed and the Kinston players perched on the edge of the dugout steps.

When the umps finally signaled "out," the players exploded out of the dugout and onto the field in celebration of their championship.

With an 84-54 record in the regular season, the best batting average, second-best ERA in the league and both the league's MVP and Most Valuable Pitcher on their squad, it was still a strange way to clinch the league title.

"Never. Never," Sarbaugh said when asked whether he'd ever seen an ending like that. "I have never seen a game end like that in a regular-season game, let alone a championship."

Sarbaugh admitted when he appealed the play, he doubted that it would be upheld because he didn't think the umpires would let a championship game end on that kind of note.

"That's what I thought at first, but the more I saw them talking like they wanted to make sure they made the right call, I felt we had a chance," he said. "And then when they came over to talk to Bien, well, any time you see them coming over to talk to the other manager it's not a good sign for him."

Not surprisingly, Figueroa wasn't too happy to see his team's season end that way.

"I said there was no interference because he didn't touch the guy," he said. "It was a terrible call. It wasn't interference."

The Mills Cup series MVP award went to Kinston middle reliever Randy Newsom (1-0), a sidearm hurler who shut down Frederick in the three games and ended the Keys' bases-loaded 10th inning threat to earn the win on Monday.

It was clear from the outset that respective staff aces Luis Ramirez for Frederick and Chuck Lofgren for Kinston had their "A-games" going and every run would be crucial.

The Keys drew first blood in the fourth, loading the bases with one out. Rivas looped a single to shallow right field to score Nolan Reimold and give Frederick a 1-0 lead.

The Indians knotted the score in the sixth with the same aggressive style of play that earned them victories in the first two series games.

Argenis Reyes led off the inning with a single to right field. With one out, Micah Schilling drilled a ball through second baseman Figueroa's legs and Reyes, running full tilt, managed to motor home, sliding across the plate and exuberantly slamming the dirt with his hand.

In the 10th, Indians reliever Ryan Knippschild walked leadoff batter Brown on four pitches and Figueroa followed with a perfect bunt. That set up an intentional walk to Johnson and an unintentional walk to pinch-hitter Pete Maestrales followed, loading the bases with one out.

Newsom entered to face Reimold, the Keys' cleanup hitter and undisputed top hitting prospect.

His first pitch bounced past catcher Javi Herrera, who dove on the ball and kept the runners in place, a huge defensive gem. Newsom's next three pitches were right on the money and set Reimold down swinging for the biggest out of the game. The next hitter, Mario Delgado, grounded out to second to end the threat.

Kinston scored in what became typical scratch-it-out fashion in the bottom half of the 11th.

Carolina League MVP Jordan Brown got things started, singling down the right-field line. With two outs, Stephen Head delivered another single to bring up Chris de la Cruz, who sparkled defensively at shortstop over the three series games, but was 0-for-11 at the plate.

This time de la Cruz hit a hard roller up the third-base line that handcuffed Johnson and Brown raced home on the infield single to make it 2-1.

Newsom earned the win with his clutch two-thirds of an inning, bringing his total in the series to five innings with one hit and five strikeouts.

Originally signed by the Boston Red Sox out of Tufts University as a non-drafted free agent, Newsom started the season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks but was sent to the Indians in July. He had a 2-2 record and a 2.61 ERA with Kinston.

"I can't believe all this happened," he said after the game, his uniform wet with champagne and a huge smile on his face. "It really seems like a dream ending to what was a rocky year."

Newsom also had a lot of praise for the Keys' tenacious play.

"Those guys battled like crazy right down to their last out. You would have thought they would have folded after they tried to bunt but we were just like 'when is this team going to die'?" he said. "And it was tough for the umpires, making that call. You have to give them credit. It's a tough way to win a game but it was the right call."

With the Kinston starting rotation getting most of the accolades this season, and deservedly so, Sarbaugh was happy to see his bullpen get some attention in the postseason, and singled out Newsom's slamming the door on the Keys.

"You can't throw better than that," he said of the right-hander's heroics. "It was a well-deserved MVP award. It was great for him and good for us."

Collins, who took over the Kinston closer role in mid-August when T.J. Burton left for Team Canada and the Olympic qualifying tournament, notched his second save of the finals.

The tough-luck loser was closer Rommie Lewis Jr. (0-1), who saw his first action of the finals. Coming on with two outs in the eighth, Lewis gave up a run on four hits in 3 1/3 innings, striking out one. It was his longest outing since June 17.

Both starters turned in fine performances as Ramirez allowed one unearned run on four hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out four. Lofgren gave up a run on five hits over seven innings, walking two and striking out seven, including the side in order in the second.

The Kinston title marks the second time in the past three years the Indians won the Mills Cup, and the fifth since becoming an Indians affiliate in 1987. Most recently, they fell to the Keys in five games in the 2005 finals, but beat the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2004.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for