After a near .500 regular season, the Lynchburg Hillcats got hot in the playoffs and gave the Braves organization their first Carolina League championship since 2000. They defeated the Winston-Salem Dash, who had the best winning percentage of any full-season minor league team in all the league, three games to one to capture the Mills Cup.
Game 4 was a back-and-forth affair that had plenty of tense moments. A Dan Brewer leadoff walk and Nick Ahmed double led to an early run for Lynchburg, erased the next half-inning by a Courtney Hawkins RBI single. The Dash added one in the fifth and sixth with a Keenyn Walker double and a Michael Blanke homer. Brewer and Ahmed repeated their efforts from the first, ending in two runs this time to tie the game at three.
Again, the stalemate didn’t last long, as a David Herbek double led to the go-ahead run. With two outs in the eighth, Ahmed hit his third double but was stranded. In the ninth, Edward Salcedo and Michael Spina each doubled to tie the game and send it to extras. Meanwhile, John Cornely was mowing down hitters, striking out seven in three scoreless innings.
The Hillcats loaded the bases in the bottom of the tenth, but Salcedo struck out looking to end the threat. The 11th inning wasn’t a thing of beauty, but it got the job done. Matt Weaver reached on an infield single, Brandon Schlehuber reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt, and Mycal Jones dropped down a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Adam Milligan hit a flyball to deep right field to bring home Weaver and start the celebration for Lynchburg.
Ahmed was named the Series MVP, while he and Gus Schlosser probably moved their stock up with their performances in the playoffs. Ahmed seems to be taking the Tyler Pastornicky path, a decent hitter who plays an okay shortstop. Schlosser is a bit old at 23 for the Carolina League, but his great control and ability to keep the ball on the ground could lead to a good shot to make it in Atlanta.