Tony Sipp ... four strikeouts.
Akron couldn't match Kinston's sweep of a first-round playoff series. The Aeros, who totaled 24 runs in two home wins to open the series, lost in Altoona, 4-1, Friday night in Game 3 of the Southern Division Finals in the Class AA Eastern League. Meanwhile, Kinston prepared to host Game 1 of the Class A Carolina League Finals on Saturday night after sweeping its first-round matchup in two games.
Class AA Akron won the Southern Division of the Eastern League by 10 1/2 games over second-place Altoona and is meeting the Curve in a best-of-five playoff series. Portland leads Trenton, two games to one, in the Northern Division series. The Aeros are seeking their third championship in four years. The Aeros took three of four from Portland to win it all last year and swept New Haven to win the title in 2003.
EASTERN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Southern Division Final, Best of Five
Akron Aeros (87-55) vs. Altoona Curve (75-64)
Game 3, Friday: at Altoona 4, Akron 1 (Aeros lead series, 2-1)
Trevor Crowe provided most of Akron's limited offense, going 3-for-5 with a stolen base and a run. He led of the sixth inning with a single, stole second and went to third on a throwing error on the play. Brandon Pinckney then singled him home. Akron failed to capitalize on several scoring chances. Brad Snyder tripled to open the Aeros' seventh, but was out trying to score on a grounder by Pat Osborn. In the eighth, Crowe tripled with one out, but Pinckney popped out to second, Ryan Goleski walked and Ryan Mulhern flied out to end that threat, too. Snyder and Osborn struck out to open the ninth, but the Aeros then loaded the bases on a single by Shaun Larkin and walks to Brian Barton and pinch-hitter Jared Sandberg. But Crowe grounded into a force play to end the game.
Akron starter Sean Smith (10-5, 3.88 ERA in the regular season) allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander gave up three walks and five hits, including two homers, and struck out four. Tony Sipp gave up a hit and struck out four over 1 2/3 innings and Reid Santos yielded a run over one inning.
Game 2, Thursday: at Akron 12, Altoona 0
Aaron Laffey, Travis Foley and Sipp combined on the shutout. Laffey (8-3, 3.53 ERA in the regular season) struck out nine over six innings, allowing six hits without a walk. Foley walked three and gave up two hits but no runs over two innings and Sipp gave up one hit and struck out the side in the ninth.
Barton hit a grand slam and Sandberg a three-run homer in the Aeros' big first inning. Crowe went 3-for-4 with three runs, a walk and a stolen base. Goleski had two hits, two runs and an RBI.
Crowe singled to start the uprising and stole second. Pinckney walked and Goleski singled to load the bases. Barton struck out, but Brad Snyder hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Crowe for a 1-0 lead. Then it really got interesting. Sandberg homered to center to make it 4-0. Osborn doubled and scored on a double by Ivan Ochoa, who scored on a single by Wyatt Toregas. Crowe doubled Toregas to third and Pinckney drew his second walk of the inning to reload the bases. Goleski walked to force home Toregas and make it 7-0 and Barton drove a pitch over the wall in center to make it 11-0. Snyder then singled before Sandberg was called out on strikes to end the rally. In the third, Crowe tripled and scored on a groundout by Pinckney.
Game 1, Wednesday: at Akron 12, Altoona 10
Adam Miller (15-5, 2.75 ERA in the regular season) worked seven strong innings for the Aeros. The right-hander struck out five without yielding a walk, giving up three runs and seven hits. He got plenty of offense as Ryan Mulhern and Ochoa each hit two-run homers and Osborn went 3-for-3 with two RBI. Snyder was 2-for-3 with three runs and an RBI, Crowe went 2-for-5 with two runs and Barton had a hit and scored twice.
But Crowe, Ochoa, Snyder and Pinckney all made errors, too, enabling Altoona to get back into the game. Matt Davis, who spent most of the season as Lake County's closer, gave up five runs in only 1 2/3 innings, though four of the runs were unearned. Reid Santos failed to get an out and allowed three runs and two hits before Jim Ed Warden came on to get the final out for the save.
Game 4, Saturday: Akron at Altoona 7:05 p.m.
RHP Jensen Lewis (1-2, 3.89 ERA) vs. RHP Wardell Starling (6-5, 2.80 ERA)
Game 5, Sunday: Altoona at Akron 7:05 p.m.
Class A Kinston (47-23, 38-31) won the first half championship in the Southern Division of the Carolina League, then finished second by seven games to Salem in the second half. The Indians compiled the best overall record in the league at 85-54, then ousted Salem in two games in the first round for their 11th Southern Division title in the last 20 years. Kinston will play Frederick, which defeated Wilmington in three games in the Northern Division series. Kinston lost in the finals in 2002, fell in the first round in 2003, won it all in 2004 and lost in the finals again last season.
CAROLINA LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Southern Division Final, Best of Three
Kinston Indians (85-64) vs. Salem Avalanche (76-61)
Game 2, Thursday: at Kinston 6, Salem 0 (Indians win series, 2-0)
Scott Lewis and J.D. Martin, two pitchers on limited pitch counts all season as they recover from arm surgeries, combined on a four-hitter. Lewis (3-3, 1.48 ERA in the regular season) struck out six and gave up three hits and one walk over six innings. Martin fanned five and allowed one hit over three innings and got a save.
Jose Constanza went 3-for-4 with a run, RBI and two stolen bases and Stephen Head was 2-for-4 with two runs and a two-run homer to lead the offense. Carolina League MVP Jordan Brown went 1-for-3 with a run and RBI.
Game 1, Wednesday: Kinston 9, at Salem 6
Left-hander Chuck Lofgren (17-5, 2.32 ERA) in the regular season, pitched five scoreless innings and led 7-0 before yielding three runs (two earned) in the sixth. He gave up two hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings, striking out five. Randy Newsom worked 2 2/3 innings and also allowed three runs (two earned). Ryan Knippschild gave up a hit and got the first out in the ninth before Kyle Collins got a strikeout and the final two outs for the save.
Nate Panther, MVP of Akron's playoff run in 2005, went 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI while Brown was 2-for-4 with two runs. Argenis Reyes had two hits and three RBI, and Javier Herrera went 1-for-5 with a run and two RBI.
Carolina League Mills Cup Championship Series, Best of Five
Kinston Indians (87-64) vs. (Frederick Keys (63-78)
Game 1, Saturday: Frederick at Kinston 7:00 p.m.
TBA vs. RHP Joe Ness (9-6, 3.62 ERA)
Game 2, Sunday: Frederick at Kinston 2:00 p.m.
TBA vs. LHP Mariano Gomez (2-3, 3.86 ERA)
Game 3, Monday, Kinston at Frederick, 7:00 p m.
LHP Chuck Lofgren (17-5, 2.32 ERA) vs. TBA
Game 4, Tuesday: Kinston at Frederick, 7:00 p.m.
LHP Scott Lewis (3-3, 1.48 ERA) vs. TBA
Game 5, Wednesday: at TBA, 7:00 p.m.