Lugnuts eliminated; I-Cubs face same fate

The Lansing Lugnuts were eliminated from the post-season Friday at the hands of West Michigan; Russ Johnson's hot-hitting not enough to carry Iowa; Daytona: co-champs?

AAA-Iowa Cubs

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Jason Jones homered and drove in five as the Oklahoma Redhawks moved one step closer to advancing to the Pacific Coast League Championship Series Friday, defeating the Iowa Cubs, 10-4.

The two teams combined to pound out 25 hits. Cubs starter Shawn Sedlacek gave up nine and Redhawks starter Sam Narron ten. Sedlacek (10-8) allowed seven earned runs, including a three-run homer and RBI single to Jones, who stepped to the plate again in the sixth and proceeded to rip an RBI single off Erik Eckenstahler for his fifth RBI of the night.

Narron (9-2) was nothing spectacular, either. He allowed four runs on 10 hits in six innings for the win. Iowa grabbed the early lead on a run-scoring single from second baseman Russ Johnson, which extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games.

After Jones had homered in the second to put Oklahoma on top 3-1, the Cubs struck for three in the third. Johnson and Trenidad Hubbard singled ahead of Donny Leon, who doubled to make it a one-run game. An RBI single from Gookie Dawkins tied it, and Bill Selby bounced into a fielders choice to give Iowa a 4-3 lead.

Jones doubled in the fourth to tie it at 4-4, and things stayed the same until the sixth when Oklahoma broke for five runs on five hits to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

The Cubs fell behind two games to one in the best-of-five series and must now win Saturday's 1:30 CT matinee at Bricktown Ballpark to have any shot at advancing to the final round of league playoffs. Game four starters have been announced. John Koronka (12-9, 4.34) will face Oklahoma's John Hudgins (0-1, 7.50).

Class High-A Daytona Cubs

The Florida State League and President Chuck Murphy announced Friday that the FSL Championship Series between the Daytona Cubs and Tampa Yankees has been canceled, with both clubs being named Co-Champions for the 2004 season. The two teams were expected to meet Friday for game one of a best-of-five series in Clearwater, Fla. to determine the outright champion. The series was postponed due to Florida's newest natural nightmare: Hurricane Ivan.

The Cubs finished out the regular season with a 70-56 record. Manager Steve McFarland's club hit .267 as a team and posted a staff ERA of 3.90 for the year. Felix Pie and Brandon Sing lead the way offensively. Pie hit .289 in 173 at-bats in the leadoff position while Sing hit a Daytona-record 32 homeruns in 122 games to earn Florida State League MVP honors for 2004.

Shortstop Buck Coats turned in a marvelous season at the plate, his best one yet as a Cubs prospect, hitting .290 in 112 games. Coats' error total was also down from his 2003 totals. The 22-year-old committed 36 errors in those 112 games this year, down some 15 from his '03 tally.

Leading the Daytona pitching staff was soft-tossing left-hander Jon Connolly. Connolly was 9-5 with a 2.40 ERA in 21 starts. His nine wins lead the entire staff, and his 2.40 ERA was tops among Daytona starters. Only right-hander reliever Chris Mowday posted a better earned run average in 2004.

The Cubs' bullpen was a bit streaky at times, though generally reliable. In addition to Mowday's 1.89 ERA in 41 games, right-hander Federico Baez posted eight wins and a 3.55 ERA in a team-high 48 appearances. Thomas Atlee and Andrew Shipman split the majority of games in the role of closer. Atlee saved 15 games, most of which came in the first half of the year, while Shipman saved six, including two in the post-season.

Class Mid-A Lansing Lugnuts

LANSING, Mich. - It's been nice knowing you, Lansing. In what was likely the Lugnuts' final game as Class-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, Jordan Tata overcame a two-run Kevin Collins homerun in the first inning as the West Michigan Whitecaps beat Lansing, 3-2. West Michigan now gets set to face South Bend in the Midwest League Championship Series.

Kelly Hunt homered twice to erase Lansing's early lead. His sixth inning blast off Lugnuts starter Randy Wells gave Michigan the lead, and the victory. Wells (6-8) didn't pitch poorly. The right-hander who spent all of 2003 as a catcher with the Lugnuts gave up three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. Tata (9-11) won his seventh straight decision dating back to July 30, and eight of his last nine.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old allowed just two hits after the first inning, tossing seven innings total and allowing just three hits to go with six strikeouts. He retired the last 10 Lansing hitters he faced before exiting.

Manager Julio Garcia's club tried desperately to send the game into extra innings in the ninth. Brian Dopirak doubled to lead things off and was substitued by the speedy Robinson Chirinos as a pinch-runner. After Collins grounded out to advance Chirinos to third with less than two away, Drew Larsen was plunked by a Chris Homer pitch to put both the tying and winning runs on base.

It wasn't meant to be, however, as Homer struck out Jake Fox swinging and got a pinch-hitting Uriak Marquez to pop up to end it.

The Lugnuts closed out the year with a combined record of 77-63 in the regular season. As a team, the Lugnuts batted .264 and had a staff ERA of 3.39. Three Lansing starters reached double-digits in wins: RHPs Ronald Bay, Billy Petrick and Carlos Marmol.

First baseman Brian Dopirak was named league MVP, batting .307 in 137 games with a league-leading 39 HR and 120 RBI. Dopirak had hitting streaks of 27 and 10 games during the season.

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