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P-Nats capture another Mills Cup

Potomac wraps up second Carolina League title in three years
September 18, 2010
If there was any doubt about the value of team chemistry or the importance of perseverance, the Potomac Nationals proved it Friday night.

Marcos Frias combined with two relievers on a four-hitter as the Nationals edged the Winston-Salem Dash, 2-1, in Game 4 of the Carolina League Championship Series to claim their second Mills Cup in three years.

"This is something that nobody can take away from us," Potomac manager Gary Cathcart said. "It is an unbelievable achievement. And even though we weren't the most talented team, we were the best team.

"The players sold out for each other and they cared more about the team than about themselves. When you do that, you can achieve great things."

The victory completed a stunning second-half turnaround for the Washington Nationals' Class A Advanced affiliate. The P-Nats went 31-39 in the first half, finishing 10 games behind the Frederick Keys.

Potomac reeled off three four-game winning streaks in the second half en route to a league-best 39 victories. It carried the momentum into the postseason, eliminating Frederick in four games in the Northern Division Finals before doing the same to the Dash.

"We couldn't get our game going in the first half and we couldn't manage to match up good pitching with good hitting," Cathcart said. "It was unbelievable in the second half.

"Everyone jumped on the back of Tyler Moore and he loosened a lot of the players and helped them all lift their games. He was key and he got a lot of guys going. And once we got into first place, we knew we had a chance to win the championship."

In both playoff series, the P-Nats won three straight games after dropping the opener. Blanked by Winston-Salem, 4-0, in Game 1, Potomac held the Dash -- the league's top hitting team -- to three runs or fewer in the final three contests.

"We put everything behind us after that first game and I reminded them that the next game is always the most important one," Cathcart said. "But this was all about the team and what they did. It wasn't about me."

On Friday, the P-Nats struck quickly. Francisco Soriano led off the bottom of the first with a walk, moved up on a pair of groundouts and scored on Moore's base hit to left field.

Soriano tripled in the third and came home with an insurance run on a forceout by Bill Rhinehart, who was named Finals MVP.

The Dash got on the board in the fourth on Seth Loman's RBI single, but that was Frias' only hiccup as the 21-year-old right-hander struck out four and yielded four hits for his second postseason win.

Joe Testa walked one over 2 2/3 hitless frames and Zach Dials retired all four batters he faced for his second playoff save. When Dials coaxed Ozzie Lewis to hit a grame-ending grounder to shortstop, it set off a wild celebration at Pfitzner Stadium.

"We saw that ground ball and we started to get up out of our chairs. When we won it, we jumped in each others' arms and just kept saying, 'We did it,'" Cathcart said. "Winston-Salem are as good a High-A team as you will ever see, but we outhit them and we showed what can be accomplished when everyone cares about the club."

Starter Nathan Jones (0-1) took the loss, giving up two runs on three hits and five walks while striking out five over six innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to