Another year, another championship for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. In their second season as an affiliate with the Chicago Cubs, the Pelicans captured their second consecutive Mills Cup Championship with a win against the Lynchburg Hillcats last week.
In the fourth game of the five-game set, the Birds trotted out former TCU standout Preston Morrison to the hill, a team leader who didn’t have his best stuff against Lynchburg. He lasted just three innings, allowing seven runs and three earned runs. But as was the theme with the Pelicans over the course of the 2016 season, teamwork kicked into gear.
Manager Buddy Bailey relied on bullpen arm James Pugliese to stifle the Hillcats for the next 4.1 innings, a plan that worked out to be a series-clinching decision.
Pugliese struck out seven, allowing just one hit and no runs.
The offense kicked into gear in the mid-innings, putting up five runs to give Myrtle Beach another Mills Cup title to bring back to the beach.
“It was really fun. I was into it more than ever,” Pugliese said after the win.
On what he thought about before the game, Pugliese said it was all about the basics.
“Definitely just coming in and throwing strikes, which I did, and keeping the ball down,” he said when asked about his pre-game mindset.
“I know what kind of park [Lynchburg's] is, it’s a home run park. [I was] fortunate enough to keep the ball down and have my changeup work well...”
The two through four hitters in the Pelicans lineup were brilliant last Wednesday night (Sept. 14), combining for seven hits against Lynchburg.
The trio of Donnie Dewees, David Bote and Eloy Jimenez accounted for three of the team’s five runs, with leadoff man Charcer Burks scoring twice.
Bailey was thrilled to see his team win the title, which he says is the ultimate goal, but he was more excited to see the experience and development that his players were able to experience throughout the season.
“You know, most guys in the minor-leagues don’t make the big leagues, so to experience team camaraderie and what it takes, and a little bit of uneasiness and uncomfortableness which playoff baseball can put you in at times, it's really good for guys’ lives to be in those moments,” Bailey said.
“And then, if they win, it just gives them more confidence in anything in life. But more importantly, development is everything and winning is a bonus.”
The Myrtle Beach 3-1 championship series win was a microcosm of the second half of the season as a whole.
Despite losing top prospects in Ian Happ and Gleyber Torres up the middle, the Pelicans relied on a steady dose of dominant pitching and a classic, old-school baseball mentality.
Bailey’s mindset and experience helped the Pelicans compile a strong 46-23 record in the second half of the season.
With two perfect years under their belts in the Cubs era, it’s safe to say the Chicago organization is looking forward to many more years of exciting, winning and fan-friendly baseball along the Grand Strand.