A season to remember ended with a Champaign celebration in Birmingham as the Barons captured their first Southern League Championship since 2002 with a 4-2 win over the Mobile BayBears in Game 5 of the Southern League Championship Series at Regions Field.
For the third game in a row the BayBears jumped out to an early lead scoring two runs on a Nick Evans single to center in the first inning against starter Myles Jaye (1-0, 5.14). Mobile would end up loading the bases in the inning but couldn't capitalize further as Garrett Weber grounded out to end the threat.
Micah Johnson's stellar postseason continued in the bottom half of the inning with a leadoff solo home run against Mobile starter Bradin Hagens (0-1, 9.00), cutting the lead to 2-1.
The Barons delivered what proved to be the decisive blow in the second, scoring three runs to take a 4-2 lead. Tyler Saladino walked and Mike Blanke singled to lead off the inning before advancing a base each after a sacrifice bunt by Keenyn Walker. A wild pitch by Hagens brought home Saladino and sent Blanke to third while tying the game at 2-2. With two outs, Johnson came through again with an infield single scoring Blanke. Johnson would advance to second on a throwing error by the second baseman Mike Freeman and scored on a base hit by Cody Puckett.
Jaye, who was making just his third start at the Double-A level, settled in after his rocky first to throw 4.0 shutout innings. He was removed in favor of reliever Ryan Kussmaul with a 4-2 lead prior to the sixth inning after allowing just two runs on five hits over 5.0 IP.
Kussmaul, who missed much of the season with a finger injury, came through with a dominant relief appearance striking out six batters over 2.2 IP to preserve the Barons' lead into the eighth inning.
Cody Winiarski came on and retired the final four outs including a strikeout of Keon Broxton to end the game, setting off a frenzied celebration on the field and in the stands as the Barons and fans celebrated the cities first championship in 11 seasons.
Micah Johnson was named the MVP of the Southern League Championship series after hitting .450 (9-for-20) with a home run, six runs scored and four RBI.
Blanke and Puckett each finished with two hits apiece, capping stellar postseasons for both players.
The Barons won two decisive game fives in the postseason including a 7-4 win against the Tennessee Smokies in the Division Series. The Championship was the 14th in franchise history and the 7th since the formation of the Southern League in 1964.
-------- Source: MiLB.com