'Hounds repeat as Texas League champs

Frazier tosses complete-game three-hitter to finish sweep of Naturals

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | September 19, 2015 1:08 AM

Parker Frazier watched the ball leap off Jorge Bonifacio's bat. As it made a beeline for left fielder Josh Whitaker's glove and settled there for the 27th out, the 6-foot-5 right-hander exclaimed, "That's the third out!" as his teammates created a dog pile on the mound.

It was a moment three years in the making.

Frazier tossed a three-hitter and struck out nine Friday as Midland completed a three-game sweep of Northwest Arkansas with a 7-0 win to capture its second straight Texas League championship.

The 26-year-old right-hander didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning and never allowed a runner past second base en route to his first career complete-game shutout.

"It was a combination of just mixing up the pitches -- fastball, curveball, changeup, slider," Frazier said. "I only shook [catcher Beau Taylor] once. He had the game plan ready to go and he knew what to do, so I told myself all I have to do is execute the pitch and follow his lead."

Pitching for his fourth team and second organization this year, Frazier (1-1) overcame back pain that had hindered him down the stretch and into the playoffs.

"This was a good matchup for him against this Northwest Arkansas team, a bunch of right-handed bats in the lineup, a bunch of guys that like to pull the baseball," RockHounds manager Ryan Christenson said. "To see him keep the ball down and work real hard … I knew that he would be tough if he executed the game plan."

Josh Whitaker, another player who overcame an injury heading into Friday's contest, helped key the offense with a two-run single that capped a four-run fourth inning. He also homered leading off the sixth. The 26-year-old outfielder sat out the first two games of the series after being hit on the hand with a pitch in Game 3 of the South Division finals against Corpus Christi.

Both hits turned out to be key momentum swings, Christenson said, after a flat start on both sides.

"It was an interesting environment here at the ballpark the first few innings," the manager said. "It was real quiet and people were just kind of waiting to see what was going to happen, when all of a sudden we scored four runs and we got some confidence rolling.

"When Whitaker led off the sixth with the big home run, [winning] was something that we knew was inevitable, I think, as a team."

Frazier added to that feeling of inevitability as he retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced. When Bonifacio's liner to left ended the game, it not only gave Midland a second straight title, it achieved a goal that began three years ago for a large part of the team and its manager.

For many of the young players in the RockHounds locker room -- ranked prospects in the A's organization such as Jaycob Brugman (No. 21), Renato Nunez (No. 6), Ryon Healy (No. 22), Matt Olson (No. 2) and Chad Pinder (No. 7) -- this was not only their third season on the same team but their third under Christenson.

The one thing that had eluded the group in the previous two years was a championship.

"Had high hopes coming into the postseason each of these three years and weren't able to get it done the past two," Christenson said. "So for us to have been together three years in a row, to finally win a championship was something really special."

Even a newcomer like Frazier, acquired from the Diamondbacks in July, knew this team was a special group.

"It's my first Minor League championship to ever be a part of and it feels great," he said. "This is a great group of guys. I got traded over here two months ago and I'm happy it happened."

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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