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Thunder finally win the big one

Carson collects four hits, three RBIs in clincher against Aeros
September 16, 2007
AKRON, Ohio -- Forget pitching.

Trenton beat the Akron Aeros at their own game Saturday night at Canal Park, pounding out 16 hits in a 10-5 victory that gave the Thunder their first Eastern League title in the franchise's 14-year history.

As soon as closer Justin Pope retired Jordan Brown, the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year, to end Game 4 of the best-of-5 series, a mass of blue-clad players mobbed the mound in a jumping throng that hopped around the infield in joy.

Later, players slowly poured into the plastic-wrapped clubhouse -- minus couches and other bits of furniture that were removed for the sake of preservation -- and championship T-shirts and hats were passed out before the champagne corks began to fly in unison.

Matt Carson went 4-for-5 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored. His eighth-inning blast gave Trenton a five-run advantage and helped secure MVP honors. Cody Ehlers also had four hits with an RBI and two runs scored.

"You know, on occasion, we can [hit]," said a smiling Thunder manager Tony Franklin before he headed into the champagne spray. "We don't do it often, but when we do, we can put runs up on the board in bunches where everyone contributes."

In the midst of the sweet-smelling and soggy group was starter Dan McCutchen (2-0), who allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings for the win. The 24-year-old right-hander went 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA since joining Trenton on Aug. 1 after compiling an 11-2 record with Class A Advanced Tampa.

"The thing that everyone likes about the kid is he is quite the competitor," Franklin said. "He's a very determined young man. Every game is a really big game for him. He's not going to give in to any hitter."

McCutchen surrendered four runs in the third but didn't give in after that. Trenton rewarded him with three runs in the fourth to take a 6-4 lead and chase Aeros starter Bobby Brownlie.

"I thought Bobby had settled down after that first inning," Aeros manager Tim Bogar said. "I thought he'd do exactly what he'd done during the regular season. After struggling in the first inning, he'd turn into nails from there on."

Trenton battered Brownlie for six runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 frames. The Thunder were batting only .238 entering the game, but tacked on four runs against the Akron bullpen. Franklin called the performance a team effort.

"To win tonight, everybody was going to have to do what they do best," Franklin said. "That happened, McCutchen pitched a pretty big ballgame out there and the bullpen came in and shut the door. We made plays, scored runs and played like a championship team."

After 14 years, the Thunder can finally call themselves that.

NOTES: Not only were the Thunder making their first trip to the Eastern League Finals, the team also set a few more postseason records. Their 14 hits and 10 runs set franchise marks. ... Aeros catcher Wyatt Toregas listened to the game on the radio for the second night in a row from his bed at Akron's St. Thomas Hospital, where he's being treated for a viral infection. His teammates hung his jersey in the dugout for inspiration. "I went and visited him today and he's doing much better," Bogar said. "Hopefully, they'll release him by [Sunday]."

Stephanie Storm is a contributor to