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Silver Hawks wear Midwest crown

Jackson pitches South Bend to 4-0 victory in Game 5
September 17, 2005
The South Bend Silver Hawks won their first Midwest League title in 12 years on Saturday, blanking the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, 4-0, in decisive Game 5 of the Championship Series at Fox Cities Stadium.

Strong pitching by starter Steven Jackson and back-to-back homers by Cesar Nicolas and Agustin Murillo produced South Bend's first crown since 1993. South Bend had won its first six playoff games and took a 2-0 lead in this series before Wisconsin battled back to force a fifth game.

The Silver Hawks also won the title in 1989, a year after joining the league, and were runners-up in 2001. They advanced to the postseason again in 2003 and 2004.

It was a pitchers' duel for more than half of the game. Jackson (1-0) threw 90 pitches over eight shutout innings, yielding five hits and striking out nine without a walk. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed just two runners to reach second base.

Wisconsin's Cibney Bello (0-1) kept the Silver Hawks scoreless through the sixth, fanning a career-high eight and setting down 13 straight at one point.

South Bend ended its hitless streak and got on the board in the seventh after Carlos Gonzales led off with a bunt single. Nicolas followed with his second blast of the series and Murillo added a solo shot over the left-field wall to give the Silver Hawks a 3-0 lead.

Bello induced a groundout by Wilkin Castillo and walked Orlando Mercado before Jon Lockwood relieved. After Jereme Milons struck out, Mercado advanced on a wild pitch and Brandon Simon walked to put two on with two out. But Lockwood struck out Emilio Bonifacio to get out of the jam.

The Silver Hawks cushioned their lead in the ninth on an RBI single by Simon. With one out, Mercado lined a single to center. Milons followed with a fly ball to center and reached safely when Chris Colton lost the ball in the sun. Simon plated Mercado with a single to right but was thrown out at second.

South Bend's Matt Elliott pitched a perfect ninth, fanning the first two batters. The 21-year-old right-hander got Thomas Hubbard to hit a grounder to third, and Murillo threw to first baseman Nicolas for the final out.

The Timber Rattlers only had runners in scoring position in the first and third innings, when Brent Johnson and Josh Womack singled and stole second, respectively.