The 2015 Carolina League postseason begins this week, and the first round will include the Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians) taking on the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Should Lynchburg advance, they will play for the Mills Cup, the Carolina League’s version of the World Series. A win would not only give the Hillcats their 3rd title in 7 years, but it would extend Virginia’s dominance in the Carolina League.
Dominance, you ask? There are three VA teams in the league-the Woodbridge-based Potomac Nationals (Nationals), Salem Red Sox (Red Sox), and the aforementioned Hillcats. Since 2008, not only have all 3 teams won a title, but they have combined to win 6 of the last 7 Mills Cup titles. In 2007, the then-Salem Avalanche went to the Mills Cup finals and lost, but since then:
CAROLINA LEAGUE CHAMPIONS SINCE 2008:
All Virginia based teams! For good measure, the 2009 runner-up was Salem, and the 2013 runner-up was Potomac.
Let’s see if the Hillcats can continue our state’s dominance and make it 7 of 8 champions this time around.
Since joining the Pirates lineup at the tailend of the 2009 season and for good in 2010, 2B Neil Walker (Lynchburg, 2005-2006) has been a mainstay. Known more for his defense then anything, Walker occasionally had flashes with the bat. In each of his first two full seasons, he hit 12 HRs and then improved to 14 and 16.
In 2014, he broke through in a big way, hitting a career high 23 HR and driving in 76. he hit .271 with a career high .467 Slugging percentage, all of which helped the Pirates get to the playoffs for the second straight year after no postseason baseball in the Steel City for over 20 years.
Walker’s exploits did not go unnoticed by the rest of baseball, as he took home his first Silver Slugger award.
MLB’s 2014 postseason awards started in full swing with the presentation of the Gold Gloves. The Braves were represented on the GG squad, by a repeat winner.
SS Andrelton Simmons (Lynchburg, 2011) won his second straight Gold Glove by turning in another solid season defensively. He did make 14 errors, the same as a season ago, but posted a still solid .978 Fielding Percentage, and he led all NL SS with 99 Double Plays turned, as well as a 3.9 Wins Above Replacement on defense.
This was the second straight Gold Glove for Simmons, who played 131 games for Lynchburg in 2011 when coming up in the Braves system.
One of the longest-tenured franchises in all of minor league baseball, much less the Carolina League, will have a new parent club in 2015. The Lynchburg Hillcats have parted ways with the Atlanta Braves after four years, and will now become the High-A Carolina League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians chose not to renew their affiliation with the Carolina Mudcats (formerly the Kinston Indians), a franchise partnership that dates back to 1987, a 25-year affiliation, and decided to go in a different direction, hooking up with a full-season affiliate that is the furthest from Cleveland, 480 miles apart from homeplate at Progressive Field. The deal between the Indians and Hillcats runs through 2018.
Meanwhile, the Braves chose not to re-up after just 4 years in Hillcity, a partnership in which the Hillcats won the 2012 Carolina League championship and current Atlanta Braves stars Evan Gattis, Andrelton Simmons, and former UVA star Phil Gosselin played here.
The Potomac Nationals are headed back to the Mills Cup Championship series!!!!!!!!!!
The Potomac Nationals, the High-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, defeated the Lynchburg Hillcats last night, 4-3, thanks to a solid all-around team effort. Isaac Ballou (Smithfield) had a solo HR in the first, part of his 2-hit, 2-run, 2-RBI night, Brian Rauh allowed 3 hits and one solo HR over 6 innings, and Gilberto Mendez got a 4-out save. Brandon Miller, the only Potomac starting batter to not get a hit all night, unleashed a no-bounce peg from his position to throw out the tying run at home plate to end the 7th inning. Lynchburg never threatened the last 2 innings, and Potomac will play for the Carolina League title.
It is unclear who they will play, as the Salem-Myrtle Beach series will go to a 3rd and deciding game tonight.
The Carolina League playoffs are all set. In the Northern Division Championship Series. Potomac will take on Lynchburg in the NDCS. All games are in Woodbridge, Game 1 is Wednesday September 3 at 7:05 PM. Game 2 is the following night, and if necessary, Game 3 is Friday night.
Game 2 is washed out in Lynchburg, makeup tomorrow.