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Cards get Wong HRs at right time; Wooten wields hot bat in Carolina League playoffs

Kolten Wong (Orleans, 2010) / photo courtesy of Major League Baseball
10/14/2014 3:48 PM

Article By: Joe Sherman

      HIGH & INSIDE – With two clutch game-winning home runs to his credit this postseason, former Cape Cod Baseball League MVP Kolten Wong (Orleans, 2010) has emerged as the St. Louis Cardinals’ resident hero. On Sunday, Wong’s solo homer off Sergio Romo powered the defending National League champions to a 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS. (Click here to watch the video.) After the Cardinals lost catcher Yadier Molina to an oblique injury and closer Trevor Rosenthal gave up the tying run in the top of the ninth inning, they were desperate for some magic. Wong promptly provided just that by lining the second pitch he saw over the wall in right field to even the series at one game apiece. Preserving the victory for the Cardinals was reliever Seth Maness (Bourne, 2009), who earned the win when he retired Pablo Sandoval on a comebacker with the bases loaded to end the top of the ninth. Maness came on after a Rosenthal pitch bounced off the glove of backup catcher Tony Cruz and Matt Duffy (Orleans, 2011), running on a full count from first base, never broke stride and slid home with the tying run, setting the stage for Wong’s dramatic homer in the last of the ninth. Wong also hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the NL Division Series to eliminate the Los Angeles Dodgers …Has any pitcher ever recorded a postseason victory faster in his professional career than Brandon Finnegan (Falmouth, 2013) of the Kansas City Royals? Just wondering, because the 5-foot-11, 185-pound southpaw from Texas Christian needed just 94 days to accomplish the feat, signing his first pro contract on June 28 and beating the Oakland Athletics in the American League wild-card game on Sept. 30. Finnegan, the first member of the 2014 draft class to be called up to the major leagues, slammed the door on the A’s with 2 1/3 strong innings in the 12-inning, 9-8 walkoff victory that propelled the Royals into the American League Division Series. He also worked in the first two games of their three-game ALDS sweep of the Angels and in Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS against the Orioles. The 21-year-old rookie’s wild ride has been mind-boggling since KC made him its first-round draft pick (17th overall) on June 5. He didn’t sign right away because TCU had some College World Series business to finish, but after the Horned Frogs were eliminated in Omaha by Ole Miss on June 19, contract negotiations began in earnest, culminating in a deal that included a $2,200,600 signing bonus for the Fort Worth native. He breezed through the minors and made his MLB debut on Sept. 6 … Alex Avila (Harwich, 2007) said Monday that he hasn’t even thought about retiring from baseball after suffering another concussion in the Detroit Tigers' ALDS Game 3 loss to the Orioles. The Tiger catcher was examined by a specialist last week and said he expects to be 100 percent for the start of spring training in February. "I had a CT scan and an MRI checking my brain and my neck and the arteries leading to it, and everything checks out normal and healthy," the 27-year-old receiver told MLive.com … Happy birthday to Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler (Harwich, 2002), who turned 35 on Oct. 10.  

John Wooten (Harwich, 2010-11) / photo courtesy of Major League Baseball

     LOW & OUTSIDE  Among those who played in both rounds of the Carolina League playoffs, John Wooten (Harwich, 2010-11) was at the top of the leaderboard in all three slash-line categories (.458/.500/.917), home runs (three), RBIs (eight), hits (11) and total bases (22). That came from a 2012 37th-rounder, who had a .293/.335/.474 line in 103 regular-season games after being traded from Oakland to Washington last winter ... Congratulations to Cape League Hall of Famer Billy Best (Falmouth, 1979; Class of 2012), who last month was inducted into the East Carolina University Athletics Hall of Fame. Best helped the Pirates capture a Southern Conference regular-season baseball title as a freshman. He set ECU's single-season record for stolen bases with 16 in 1977 and is the only player in school history to lead that category four consecutive years. He helped the Pirates reach the NCAA tournament twice and finished with the school's career record for triples. After spending five seasons in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Best served as an assistant coach at ECU for five years (1985-89) ... For the second straight year, the Tampa Bay Rays are sending four minor league players Down Under to play with the Brisbane Bandits for the 2014-15 Australian Baseball League season. Two of the prospects spent the 2011 season in the Cape League – center fielder Johnny Field (Wareham) and second baseman Tommy Coyle (Bourne). The appropriately named Field played 82 games for the Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs this season after being selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Arizona. The Las Vegas native hit .290 with seven home runs. His Charlotte teammate, Coyle, 23, from Sellersville, Pa., hit .249 with five home runs in 117 games. Coyle was a 16th-round draft pick of the Rays in 2012 out of UNC Chapel Hill. The Australian league, which is 70 percent owned by MLB, has six teams located in the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and Canberra. It plays a schedule of 40-45 games beginning in late October and concluding in early January. Perth is the defending champion … The AFL is playing again. And we don’t mean the American Football League. Baseball aficionados know that “AFL” stands for Arizona Fall League, the instructional circuit where top MLB prospects are sent to hone their skills. This year, there are no fewer than 46 former Cape League players participating in the AFL, whose six clubs each share players from several major league organizations. For example, the Glendale Desert Dogs’ roster includes pitchers Joe Murphy (Harwich, 2011), Chad Smith (Brewster, 2010) and Drew VerHagen (Hyannis, 2010), all from the Detroit Tigers, as well as Scott Snodgress (Y-D, 2010) from the Chicago White Sox and Ashur Tolliver (Hyannis, 2008) from the Baltimore Orioles. Infielders Jason Esposito (Orleans, 2010), from the Orioles, and Darnell Sweeney (Harwich, 2011), from the Los Angeles Dodgers, also play for the Desert Dogs. The remaining AFL teams are the Mesa Solar Sox, Peoria Javelinas, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros.