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Missions take Texas League title

Build big lead behind Ekstrom, then hold off Cardinals, 11-7
September 16, 2007
The San Antonio Missions won the Texas League championship Saturday as Mike Ekstrom took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in an 11-7 triumph over the Springfield Cardinals.

It's the 11th league title and fourth since 1997 for the Missions, who won the best-of-5 series, 3-1. San Antonio, the only charter member still in the league, has had three different Major League affiliates in 11 years.

Making his playoff debut, Ekstrom (1-0) did not allow a hit until Allen Craig singled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. He ended up yielding two hits and three walks with five strikeouts in seven innings after going 7-10 with a 4.76 ERA during the regular season.

"We got seven runs in the first two innings and that made it easier to pitch," said Ekstrom. "I was just trying to throw fastballs and get grounders. Plus, the defense was unbelievable, so it was like a pitcher's dream.

"I was working on 14 days' rest. My arm felt strong. I was just hoping I'd have command of my pitches."

Missions manager Randy Ready said he did.

"He was dominant tonight," Ready observed. "He had a great fastball, great location, an excellent slider and he went right after the hitters."

The Missions won the league title after finishing the first half of the season in last place. They turned that around by winning the South Division title in the second half.

"We talked about going worst to first," Ready said. "We were solid all the way through the second half of the season. It was exciting the way the guys played."

San Antonio's offensive star in the clincher was Brett Dowdy, a 25-year-old outfielder who went 3-for-6 and fell a single shy of the cycle.

"We're pretty proud of ourselves right now," said Dowdy. "This means a great deal to the San Diego Padres organization and how hard they worked, and to Randy Ready and how he handled us."

Dowdy ripped a bases-loaded triple to put the Missions on the board in the first, led off the seventh with his third postseason homer and smacked a two-run double in the eighth that extended the lead to 10-0.

Peter Ciofrone chipped in three hits and two RBIs for San Antonio.

Amaury Cazana Marti smacked a two-run blast, his first of the postseason, to ignite a seven-run ninth for the Cardinals. Pinch-hitter Mark Shorey delivered an RBI double during the outburst, but Edwin Moreno retired Cazana Marti on a groundout to third base to end it.

Springfield starter Adam Daniels (0-1) allowed seven runs -- six earned -- on five hits, fanning two and walking two over 1 1/3 frames.

Alan Friedman is a contributor to