Kinston Keeps Winning; Akron Faces Must Win

Kinston won Game 1 of the Class A Carolina League finals, 10-4, Saturday night -- but the Akron Aeros suddenly face a must-win situation. The defending Eastern League champs lost Game 4 of the Southern Division Finals, 3-1, at Altoona. The Aeros won the regular season by 10 1/2 games over the second-place Curve, but must win Sunday night at Akron's Canal Park or their season is over.

Akron got only five hits and made two errors in losing for the second night in a row at Altoona after totalling 24 runs in the first two games of the best-of-five series at Akron.

The Aeros are seeking their third championship in four years. Akron took three of four from Portland to win it all last year and swept New Haven to win the title in 2003.

The winner of Sunday's game in Akron will face Portland for the 2006 championship. Portland eliminated Trenton in four games in the Northern Division finals.

Southern Division Final, Best of Five
Akron Aeros (87-55) vs. Altoona Curve (75-64)

Game 4, Saturday: at Altoona 3, Akron 1 (Series tied, 2-2)
First baseman Ryan Mulhern had three of Akron's five hits. Brad Snyder and Trevor Crowe had the other hits. Snyder had Akron's only RBI, in the seventh inning. Ryan Goleski walked, went to third on a single by Mulhern and scored on a groundout by Snyder. Brian Barton then walked and reliever Blaine Neal replaced Altoona starter Wardell Starling. Neal got Pat Osborn to ground into a force out and Ivan Ochoa to line out to second.

Aeros starter Jensen Lewis gave up three runs (two earned) over 5 1/3 innings. Altoona scored twice in the first inning, helped by fielding errors by Ochoa at shortstop and Mulhern at first base. Lewis, a teammate of Indians left-hander Jeremy Sowers at Vanderbilt University, was 1-2 with a 3.89 ERA for the Aeros in the regular season after being called up from Kinston. Travis Foley worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.

The pitching matchup for Sunday has not been announced, but Akron manager Tim Bogar likely will go with Bear Bay, a right-hander who went 7-8 with a 4.33 ERA in 27 games, including 19 starts, for the Aeros this year. Over his last 10 appearances since July 16, Bay went 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA, striking out 38 in 38 innings. In a relief appearance against the Curve on Aug. 30, Bay allowed three hits and one walk over three scoreless innings, striking out six. Right-hander Nick Pesco would be the other possibility. He went 6-8 with a 5.81 ERA in 18 games, all starts, for Akron, but struggled in the second half. In his last 10 outings since July 10, he went 3-6 with a 7.15 ERA and allowed 67 hits in 50 1/3 innings.

Game 3, Friday: at Altoona 4, Akron 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. Snyder tripled to open the Aeros' seventh, but was out trying to score on a grounder by Osborn. In the eighth, Crowe tripled with one out, but Pinckney popped out to second, Goleski walked and 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, 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. Brandon walked and Goleski singled to load the bases. Barton struck out, but 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 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 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. 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 5, Sunday: Altoona at Akron 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers TBA

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 Mills Cup Championship Series, Best of Five

Kinston Indians (87-64) vs. Frederick Keys (63-78)

Game 1, Saturday: at Kinston 10, Frederick 4 (Kinston leads series, 1-0)
League MVP Jordan Brown hit a two-run homer, Rodney Choy Foo had two hits, two runs, two RBI and a solo homer while Nate Panther went 1-for-3 with two runs and two RBI to lead the Indians' offense. Joe Ness, 9-6, 3.62 ERA during the regular season, gave up two runs on five hits over the first five innings, striking out five. Scott Roehl allowed two runs over 1 1/3 innings, but got the win when Kinston rallied. Ryan Knippschild retired the only batter he faced and Randy Newsom gave up one hit over the final 2 1/3 innings and earned a save.

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

If Necessary

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.
Pitchers TBA

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. Brown went 1-for-3 with a run and RBI.

Game 1, Wednesday: Kinston 9, at Salem 6
Left-hander Lofgren pitched five hitless 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. Newsom worked 2 2/3 innings and also allowed three runs (two earned). 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.

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.

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