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Mud Hens repeat as IL champs

Toledo hits four more homers, rips Rochester in Game 5
September 16, 2006
TOLEDO, Ohio -- It didn't take long for Toledo to turn the Governors' Cup title game into batting practice.

The Mud Hens, who have been mauling opposing pitchers all season, trained their lumber on Mike Smith on Saturday night at Fifth Third Field, and it didn't take long for them to lambaste the Rochester starter. Toledo blasted three second-inning homers en route to a 10-1 romp over the Red Wings for their second straight Governors' Cup title before a raucous sellout crowd of 10,300.

In all, Larry's Wall Bangers cracked four homers for the second straight night as Toledo became the 11th team to repeat as International League champions and first since Durham went back-to-back in 2002-03. The Mud Hens, who won their only other title in 1967, will travel to Oklahoma City to face Tucson, the Pacific Coast League champion, in Tuesday's Bricktown Showdown.

"It's been like that all year," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We can look bad at times, but every time we get our backs against the wall we come out fighting and play our best baseball like we have the last two nights. You don't get used to this [winning]."

Smith, who had started and pitched so well in Game 1 on Tuesday, was coming back on short rest and it showed. The Hens touched him for a pair of first-inning runs, stringing together three hits, with Josh Phelps doubling in Dustan Mohr for a 1-0 lead. Jack Hannahan's sacrifice fly provided a two-run bulge before the Toledo Lumber Company went to work in the second.

Mike Hessman led off the inning with his fifth playoff homer to give Toledo a three-run cushion. Max St. Pierre doubled, and two batters later, David Espinosa sent Smith's first offering onto the concourse above the right-field fence. Mohr followed by sending a shot to virtually the same spot, giving the Hens seven homers in an 11-inning stretch.

"We really came out smoking," said Parrish, who saw his team collect 71 hits in 10 playoff games, 22 of which were homers [31 percent].

Phelps padded the lead in fourth with a two-run blast off Dave Gassner.

"We just ran into the '27 Yankees," Rochester manager Stan Cliburn said. "I've never seen a team like that hit home runs at will."

Corey Hamman (1-1), who had not pitched well in three postseason appearances, including a loss in Game 1 of the semifinals against Charlotte, labored through 5 1/3 innings for the win. The left-hander threw 72 pitches, allowing one run on seven hits [three by Andres Torres] and a walk with two strikeouts.

"I just tried to put everything together and throw strikes," Hamman said. "When you get nine runs in four innings, there's not much more you can ask for. I tried not to relax after the first inning, pretending it was still 0-0 or 1-1. You can't lessen up because they have a great team."

While Toledo scored in each of the first four frames, the Red Wings hit into double plays in each of the first three. And when they looked to threaten in the second, Mohr made a spectacular leaping catch against the center-field fence on Kevin West's drive that essentially took whatever life was left out of Rochester. Parrish called it the game's turning point.

"I think I turned five double plays all year, so to get three in this game is something else," Hamman said. "We have a lot of faith in these guys, and when you have faith see what happens."

It also didn't hurt that Rochester couldn't get a hit when it mattered most. The Red Wings were 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position over the final two games. The Toledo bullpen was just as effective as Hamman, and by the time Parrish pulled his starter the outcome was already decided. A trio of relievers pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out four and not walking a batter.

"I was here for the playoffs last year and this feels exactly the same," Hamman said. "The fans in this town, they really take us in. This is a great baseball town."

THIS AND THAT: Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan was in attendance Saturday night. ... The Mud Hens got a late rash of calls to the box office during the final innings of Friday's Game 4, selling close to 1,200 tickets through the close of the box office that evening. Brisk ticket sales continued early Saturday morning, leading to the Game 5 sellout. It was the 34th sellout of the season and the 141st in the history of Fifth Third Field. ... Saturday's game marked just the ninth time there was a fifth game in the Governors' Cup Finals since the format moved to a five-game series in 1982 and the first time since 1990. ... Rochester's Terry Tiffee had four multi-hit games in the series, going 11-for-19. He was called up to Minnesota after the game, as was Glen Perkins.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for