Tucson Sidewinders Win AAA Championship

Wednesday, September 20th 2006, 9:45 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Micah Owings won his 13th straight decision and the Tucson Sidewinders broke open a close contest in the ninth inning, beating the Toledo Mud Hens 5-2 Tuesday night in the Triple-A championship game.

Juan Brito led off the fifth inning with a home run, a line drive into the left field bleachers that snapped a 1-1 tie and put the Sidewinders in front for good.

Brian Barden and Robby Hammock started the ninth with back-to-back singles, and Brito reached when third baseman Mike Hessman threw wildly to first after fielding his sacrifice bunt. Matt Erickson snapped an 0-for-20 slump with a two-run single, and Donnie Sadler added an RBI single to give Tucson a 5-1 lead.

Toledo's David Espinosa drove in Max St. Pierre with a two-out double in the ninth, but Mike Koplove got Dustan Mohr to line out to first to end the game.

The Sidewinders _ the champions of the Pacific Coast League _ gathered between first base and the pitcher's mound to celebrate their title with hugs and high-fives.

Owings gave up one run in five innings in his 22nd consecutive start without a loss. He won his final two decisions at Double-A Tennessee, and then went 10-0 after joining Tucson in June.

Tucson, the Arizona Diamondbacks' top minor league affiliate, staked Owings to a lead when Sadler led off the first inning with a triple to the gap in right-center. He scored on Scott Hairston's sacrifice fly to center.

Toledo, the International League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, tied it in the fourth when Ryan Raburn doubled down the left-field line and St. Pierre followed with an RBI single.

Mike Schultz followed Owings with two hitless innings of relief, and Koplove pitched two frames for the save.

Tucson starter Eulogio de la Cruz took the loss after giving up two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked three.

It's the first time there has been a Triple-A champion since Indianapolis beat Memphis in 2000 in the last of three best-of-five World Series between the Pacific Coast League and International League.

The championship game was reborn this season and will be played the next two seasons in Oklahoma City, the home of Texas' Triple-A affiliate.