The RockHounds earned the right to pursue Texas League history with a 4-1 win over the San Antonio Missions in the fifth and deciding game of the South Division Series on Sunday at Nelson Wolff Stadium.
Video: RockHounds advance to Texas League Finals
A brilliant pitching performance led the way as the three-time defending champions won the South Division title and will now face the North Division champion Tulsa Drillers for the Texas League Championship. The RockHounds pursuit of a fourth consecutive title is unprecedented in modern Texas League history. Some perspective:
The 2017 season marks the 130th year in which the Texas League has existed. In that time, four teams have won three (or more) consecutive championships, the RockHounds being one of them. Of the four, only two have won three (or more) outright titles and, again the 'Hounds are one of the two. The last club to accomplish the feat was Fort Worth, nearly a century ago (1920-25), and they are the only club in history to win four (or more) consecutive titles. With Sunday's win, the RockHounds earned the right to complete for a fourth consecutive championship, unprecedented in the modern era.
The RockHounds have been the Texas League's top offensive team virtually all season. In Sunday's decisive Game 5 of the, the offense put four runs on the board and the pitching did the rest. The 'Hounds allowed San Antonio just two hits in a 4-1 win, with Joel Seddon making a brilliant spot start, backed by a perfect four innings from the bullpen.
Both clubs put a run on the board with a solo home run: Sean Murphy blasted an opposite field drive in the second inning, giving the 'Hounds a 3-0 lead and Fernando Tatis, Jr. led off the fourth with a first-pitch solo shot to right-center. The game's other three runs, all scored by the RockHounds, were manufactured together.
Video: Midland's Murphy blasts solo shot
Jorge Mateo, whose three-run double was the difference in Game 4, led off the game with an "excuse me" swing single. Quite possibly the only player on the either roster to be able to turn the tapper into a hit, Mateo reached on the infield single. With one out, Mateo was running on a 3-2 pitch to Jermaine Curtis and the RockHounds' DH ripped a line drive single to left and again, Mateo's speed paid off as he was able to go from first-to-third on the sharp hit to fairly shallow left.
Viosergy Rosa grounded into the (right side) shift, but Tatis, Jr. misplayed the throw to second, with Mateo scoring and Curtis advancing to third. Luis Urias then robbed Sheldon Neuse of a hit with a tremendous play on a ball up the middle, with Curtis scoring for a 2-0 lead after the top of the first.
The 'Hounds manufactured an insurance run in the eighth. Jordan Tarsovich reached on an infield single, was pushed to second on Mateo's perfect sacrifice bunt and after moving to third on a wild pitch scored on a sac fly from Max Schrock.
Seddon set the tone, retiring the first nine batters he faced. Tatis' home run and a fifth-inning single from Webster Rivas were the only two hits he allowed, the latter wiped away on a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth.
Brandon Mann, Tyler Sturdevant and Kyle Finnegan were lights out over the game's last four innings, facing and retiring 12 consecutive batters. Each pitcher struck out two batters, with Finnegan recording the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The RockHounds advance to the Texas League Championship Series for the sixth time in nine seasons (2009).
The RockHounds are now 3-0 against San Antonio in postseason play, winning the West Division title in 2005 and the South in 2009 and 2017. The San Antonio Dodgers defeated the Midland Cubs, 2-1, in the 1979 West Division series.
The 'Hounds and Tulsa will meet for the championship for the second time. The 'Hounds defeated the Drillers, 3-2 in 2014 for the first of the current run of three consecutive titles.
This is the third time the franchises have played for the TL championship. The Lafayette Drillers and the Midland Cubs shared the 1975 title when the fifth and deciding game could not be played due to rain. The Lafayette franchise moved to Tulsa in 1977.
Joel Seddon has been brilliant in the postseason in his two seasons with the RockHounds. He went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in the 2016 Texas League playoffs, winning the opening game of both the South Division Series (vs. Corpus Christi and Astros #1 prospect Francis Martes) and the Texas League Championship Series vs. Northwest Arkansas. On Sunday, he allowed one run on two hits and no walks, striking out one batter and hitting one batter.
Seddon, Brandon Mann, Tyler Sturdevant and Kyle Finnegan retired the Missions in order in seven of the nine innings.
Viosergy Rosa had a remarkable series, driving in a dozen runs, including his eight-RBI game in the series opener.
Replacing B.J. Boyd in the lineup, Jordan Tarsovich was outstanding, finishing the series 6-for-16 (.375, on-base in 8-18, .444).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.