ALLENTOWN, PA - It took a near-perfect game to keep the Bulls from adding to their 2013 trophy case. The Omaha Storm Chasers used shutdown pitching and stellar defense to win the Triple-A National Championship Game 2-1 on Tuesday night in Allentown.
Before the game, Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo posted his starting lineup on the clubhouse bulletin board with a special message at the bottom.
"Note: Congratulations on a great year," Montoyo wrote to his team.
The Bulls won 87 games in the regular season, third most in franchise history, and lost just one playoff game en route to their fourth Governors' Cup title. It was fitting that a season filled with some of the most dominant Bulls pitching performances in memory ended with a brush with perfection, even if the pitcher was wearing the other jersey.
Omaha starter Chris Dwyer pitched 6.2 perfect innings before Tim Beckham broke up the perfect game with a clean single to right in the seventh.
For the Bulls, Jake Odorizzi struck out 8 batters in 4 innings, continuing a historic postseason. Odorizzi set team records for most innings (18) and strikeouts (24) in a postseason.
Omaha managed to accomplish something that Indianapolis and Pawtucket couldn't, however. The Storm Chasers scored off of Odorizzi. After 15.2 postseason innings without a run, and 29.2 scoreless innings overall, Lane Adams hit a two-out double in the second and scored on Manuel Pina's single up the middle.
It was the first run allowed by the Bulls in 30.2 innings, going back to game two of the Governors' Cup finals against the PawSox, and with Dwyer next to unhittable, it would be enough.
I.L. Most Valuable Pitcher J.D. Martin relieved Odorizzi and kept the Bulls within striking distance, pitching four innings and allowing one run. Martin's 16 wins were the most in the last 45 years of Durham baseball.
Team MVP Leslie Anderson got the Bulls on the board with a pinch-hit home run to right in the eighth inning. It was the team's first pinch homer of the year.
Mike Fontenot's scorching liner was then caught by pitcher Michael Mariot to end the inning, the second straight at bat where Fontenot was robbed of a hit by Omaha's defense. CF Paulo Orlando ran down a gap shot that looked like extra bases in the sixth.
The Bulls refused to let the season end easily in the ninth. Cole Figueroa singled and Beckham walked, putting the winning run on base. Zach Jackson struck out Vince Belnome to clinch the crown for Omaha and end a Bulls season that won't soon be forgotten.