Jake Dittler ... seven shutout innings.
Jake Dittler pitched seven shutout innings, Nate Panther went 4-for-4 and Ryan Mulhern drove in two runs to lead Akron to a 4-1 triumph over Portland as the Aeros claimed the Class AA Eastern League championship on Saturday night.
"Our pitching staff carried us throughout the year and showed again what it can do in the final series," Aeros manager Torey Lovullo told reporters after winning the best-of-five finals in four games. "We shut down a good Portland offense. I'm really proud of these guys. It's the same type of feeling I had last year. These guys are all winners."
Lovullo managed many of the same players to the Class A Carolina League championship with Kinston in 2004.
Panther, who hit only .246 with 12 homers at Kinston this season before being promoted to Akron on Aug. 11, was named MVP Eastern League playoffs after hitting .380 (12-for-31 with two doubles, two triples, one homer and five RBI in eight games.
"It's a great honor," said Panther. "I think everyone on our team should get the MVP, especially the pitching staff. They came out and threw well and gave us the chance to win."
Akron won its second championship in three years. The Aeros won their first EL title in 2003.
Dittler, who went 10-9 with a 3.64 ERA during the regular season, gave up five hits and two walks over seven superb innings in the title game, striking out five. Chris Cooper struck out one in a perfect eighth and Edward Mujica wrapped it up, though he gave up one run on two hits in the ninth.
Eider Torres opened the Akron third with a bunt single and went to third on a ground single to right by Panther. After Brad Snyder struck out, Mulhern lifted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Torres for a 1-0 lead.
Portland put together its only threat against Dittler in the fourth on a pair of two-out singles and walk, but the Akron right-hander struck out the final batter of the inning to retain his shutout.
Another sacrifice fly, by Ivan Ochoa, in the bottom half put Akron ahead 2-0. In the fifth, Panther singled and scored on a double by Mulhern, who then scored on another double by Shaun Larkin.
The championship was particularly satisfying for players who were on the Akron roster earlier in the season when a franchise-record 12-game losing streak sent the Aeros tumbling out of first place in late June. But Akron came back to easily win the regular-season title in the Southern Division, then eliminated Altoona in a five-game series to earn the right to face Portland. The Aeros split two games in Maine, then swept two straight from the Sea Dogs at Canal Park in Akron -- allowing only one run over the final 24 innings.
South Champion Akron vs. Second-Place Altoona
Sept. 7: Akron 11, Altoona 7
Sept. 8: Akron 6, Altoona 4
Sept. 9: Altoona 3, Akron 0
Sept. 10: Altoona 6, Akron 3
Sept. 11: Akron 6, Altoona 4
EASTERN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
Sept. 13: Portland 6, Akron 4
Sept. 14: Akron 4, at Portland 3
Sept. 16: Akron 2, Portland 0
Sept. 17: Akron 4, Portland 1
CLASS A KINSTON saw its reign as Carolina League champions end with a 2-0 defeat at home to Frederick in the fifth and final game of the 2005 championship series on Thursday night. The Indians, who had rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win the final three games and the 2004 title, came up one game short this year. The Keys locked it away with a two-run second inning off Nick Pesco, who allowed two runs, seven hits and one walk over 5 1/3 innings, striking out six. Aaron Laffey (two innings), Kyle Collins (one-third), Jesus Soto (one inning) and Tony Sipp (one-third) didn't allow a hit the rest of the way. Winning pitcher Brian Finch and three relievers combined for 12 strikeouts.
SOUTHERN DIVISION FINALS
First half champ Kinston vs. second half champ Winston-Salem
Sept. 7: Kinston 3, at Winston-Salem 1
Sept. 8: Kinston 8, Winston-Salem 1
CAROLINA LEAGUE MILLS CUP CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Sept. 10: Frederick 3, Kinston 2
Sept. 11: Frederick 6, Kinston 2
Sept. 12: Kinston 3, Frederick 0
Sept. 13: Kinston 4, Frederick 3
Sept. 14: Frederick at Kinston rained out
Sept. 15: Frederick 2, at Kinston 0
CLASS AAA BUFFALO was eliminated from the International League playoffs Sunday night by losing for the third straight home game after taking a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series in the first round. The Bisons were the defending champions.
North Champion Buffalo vs. Wild Card Indianapolis
Sept. 7: Buffalo 5, at Indianapolis 1
Sept. 8: Buffalo 6, at Indianapolis 5
Sept. 9: Indianapolis 5, at Buffalo 2
Sept. 10: Indianapolis 4, at Buffalo 1
Sept. 11: Indianapolis 6, at Buffalo 4