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Catfish sweep way to South Atlantic crown

Royster, Columbus scoop up first franchise title against West Virginia
September 14, 2007
West Virginia was powerless to do anything about the Columbus' perfect postseason.

Ryan Royster hit a three-run blast to power the Catfish to a 6-0 win Thursday, giving Columbus a 3-0 South Atlantic Championship Series sweep of the Power.

Still scoreless after a two-hour rain delay in the third inning, Matthew Fields cranked a solo shot in the fifth and Royster smacked his homer to solidify the Catfish lead at 4-0.

"We came in after the rain delay, and Fields just murdered a ball to center field," Royster said. "I came up with runners on first and third, and I was just hoping to get that second run in. It wasn't the most beautiful thing I've ever hit. For us to come back in and refocus, it was huge."

The 21-year-old left fielder is no stranger to big home runs as he cranked 30 roundtrippers with 98 RBIs in 125 games with the Catfish. He belted seven homers over a six-game streak from Aug. 5-11.

Columbus streaked through the postseason, posting a 5-0 record en route to the Catfish's first South Atlantic League crown in team history.

"For us to come out on top, we weren't going to change anything," Royster said. "We had a meeting around the 26th of August, and everyone got really excited. We all said, 'We're going to make a run for this,' and we didn't look back. It won us a championship."

Cesar Suarez capped the scoring with a two-run homer in the seventh and John Matulia doubled, singled and scored twice for the Catfish.

"It was a good dogpile," Royster said about the ensuing celebration on the field after the final out. "I've never won anything like this."

Columbus reliever Wilton Noel (1-0) yielded two hits with a strikeout and a walk over three shutout innings. Starter Jeremy Hellickson fanned one and walked one without allowing a hit over three frames.

"Every one of our pitchers was outstanding," Royster said. "They came out with confidence and a lot of focus. It was a different level."

West Virginia had a chance at a run in the fourth inning on a single by Kenneth Holmberg, but Matt La Porta was called out at home for failing to touch the plate. Chuck Caufield, John Alonso and Stephen Chapman also singled in the game.

Power reliever Jared Sutton (0-1) gave up four runs on five hits with two strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings. Starter Donovan Hand allowed one hit and two walks, striking out two over three scoreless innings.

Michael Blinn is a contributor to