The Bulls Are Back in the Finals…
The Durham Bulls beat the Columbus Clippers on Saturday by a score of 4-2 in Durham, NC to move on to the Governors’ Cup Finals. The Bulls lost the first game in Columbus, but then went on to win the final three games en route to the series win.
In what will be a rematch of last year’s finals, the Bulls move on to face the Pawtucket Red Sox, who clinched on Friday night after sweeping the Syracuse Chiefs. Last season, the Bulls beat the PawSox in four games and moved on to play in the Triple-A National Championship Game. Durham lost the Triple-A National Championship Game to Omaha in Allentown, PA.
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After dropping game one to the Clippers by a score of 9-4, the Bulls won games two and three by one run each, and game four on Saturday by two runs. Offensively, the Bulls hit just .239 over their four games. Cole Figueroa and Nick Franklin led the way with solid offensive showings in their four games at the plate. Figueroa hit .375 (6-for-16), while Franklin hit a series high .462 (6-for-13).
As for pitching, the Bulls got two solid starts in their series with Columbus. Their game four starter, Nate Karns, was impressive. Karns led the Bulls back to the championship game after allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings on Saturday. He walked just one batter and struck-out 12. Game three starter Matt Andriese was solid and allowed two runs on three hits over five innings. Andriese struck-out eight batters and earned the game three win. Reliever Adam Liberatore was sharp in two appearances in the series, tossing two scoreless innings and notching two saves.
The Bulls roster is full of Tampa Bay Rays prospects. Looking through the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, you’ll find that the current Bulls roster is made up of four of the Top 10 prospects — including the number two prospect — Hak-Ju Lee. Lee got off to a great start to the 2013 season — hitting .422 over 15 games — before tearing ligaments in his left knee in a collision at second base. He had surgery in late April of last season and missed the remainder of the year. He made his return to the Bulls on April 23 of this season and appeared in 93 games for the club this year — hitting .203 (64-for-315) with four home runs, 23 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases.
Number four prospect Enny Romero, started game two and allowed three runs on six hits over five innings and did not factor in the decision. Romero, 23, went 5-11 with a 4.50 ERA in 25 games started for the Bulls. Number five prospect Alex Colome started game one and allowed four runs on five hits over five innings and was saddled with the loss. He went 7-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 15 games started for the Bulls this season. Colome also went 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in two games (one start) for the Rays this year.
Rounding out the Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects list is Tim Beckham, who entered the season ranked ninth by Baseball America. Beckham began the 2014 on the shelf after tearing his ACL in the offseason. He made his way back to Durham in August and made his 2014 Bulls debut on August 12. That was a great game for Beckham, who went 4-for-6 with three runs scored and an RBI in his return to Triple-A. In 15 games, he hit .258 (16-for-62). In four games during the first round of the playoffs, Beckham hit .267 with two doubles and two RBIs.
Wilson Betemit was a 2014 International League Midseason All-Star and hit 18 home runs and drove in 50 runs for the Durham Bulls this season. Betemit, 32, has played 14 seasons in the minors and has 89 home runs over that span. He played for the Charlotte Knights in 2009 and hit .241 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs over 72 games.
Ray Olmedo played for the Charlotte Knights in 2012 — the same season the team went to the Governors’ Cup Finals. Olmedo is a mainstay in the International League and is in his third season with the Durham Bulls (2009, 2011, and 2014). Olmedo has spent 11 of his 16 Minor League seasons in the IL. He’s played for Louisville, Syracuse, Columbus, Durham, Charlotte, and Rochester. In 12 seasons as the Triple-A level (also spent a season in Nashville in 2010), Olmedo has 967 career hits. Overall, Olmedo has 1,403 hits in his 16 year Minor League career.
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Mikie Mahtook was a 2014 International League Midseason All-Star and played in front of his hometown fans at the Triple-A All-Star Game this season. Mahtook entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the 25th best prospect in the Tampa Bay organization. After a solid 2013 campaign in Montgomery (Double-A), Mahtook showed improvement all across the board in 2014 with the Bulls. He hit .292 (143-489) with 33 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, 68 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases over 132 games. The 24-year-old finished fifth in the IL in hits, tied for fourth in triples, sixth in doubles, and fourth in total bases (224).
Charlie Montoyo had a record-breaking season and it continues into the playoffs. Montoyo, who is the winningest manager in Bulls franchise history, takes his team back to the Governors’ Cup Championship series for the second-straight year. Even more than that, Montoyo’s resume is one of the best. He has won seven division championships in his tenure with the Bulls, along with two IL Championships (2009, and 2013) and a Triple-A National Championship (2009). Can he lead his team to another IL Championship and a shot to play for the Triple-A Championship for the second year straight?