We did it!! The Sacramento River Cats are the 2019 Triple-A National Champions!! pic.twitter.com/VFCESvwb58— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) September 18, 2019
Mike Yastrzemski wasn’t there. Nor Chris Shaw. Zach Green was gone. As was Mike Gerber, Austin Slater, Joey Rickard, Jaylin Davis, Mauricio Dubon, Mac Williamson, and Henry Ramos. In fact, of the top ten players who led the RiverCats in PA this season, only the Abiatal Avelino and Levi Michael remained. And of the top twenty innings pitched leaders, just Steven Okert and Pat Venditte were on the field in Memphis last night.
But all of those players were part of something special this year. And all of them will be getting their championship ring. The end of the 2019 season has come at least at it was sweet as the Sacramento RiverCats became the first team to take home their third AAA National Championship.
It’s perfectly indicative of the RiverCats run to the AAA National Championship that the MVP of the game was a player who will go down in history as having pitched just 1 game for Sacramento in 2019 — and that a spot start way back on May 2nd. Caleb Baragar, up from Richmond came up huge for Sacramento, winning the elimination Game 5 of the Division Series in Las Vegas and then throwing 5 more shutout innings in the AAA championship. As Manager Dave Brundage told Jim Callis during the FS1 broadcast, the moment never got too big for Caleb and he kept posting 0s inning after inning.
Sacramento jumped out to a lead immediately with a rally in the first inning that saw them load the bases two different times. In the end they got 3 runs out of the frame which proved to be more than enough the way the pitching held up. Jacob Heyward didn’t spend the post-season exactly blistering balls, but he consistently put bat to ball and found open spaces when there were runs to be had and he did that again last night, swinging the old Magic Wandoo like it hasn’t been swung in many a year.
That would end the very short night for Columbus starter Kyle Dowdy. Avelino and MIchael — the old vets of the team — each had three hits at the top of the order. And minor league Rule 5 guy Peter Maris, who spent the year split between San Jose and Richmond, provided the punctuation mark for the champs.
But it was the pitching that won this championship as Baragar, Ricardo Pinto, Melvin Adon, and longtime RiverCat Steven Okert completed dominated a Clippers club that still included big prospects like Bobby Bradley the HR champ and Daniel Johnson. A perfect mix of old hands and newcomers, which is more or less the story of the 2019 RiverCats, a team of 319 transactions as you can read in this great season recap in the Sacramento Bee.
This article says it all. What a great way to end an amazing season! https://t.co/bYdbKCFBvz— Sacramento River Cats (@RiverCats) September 18, 2019
And while you’re reading things, you might want to check out this piece on how the “new regime” Giants have changed their focus in the minor leagues, giving players more information AND more opportunities, and reaffirming the commitment to winning — and very successfully so!
With more callup opportunities and analytics available to players, the #SFGiants system and Triple-A Sacramento have shifted their focus to winning, as well as player development.— Kelsie Heneghan (@Kelsie_Heneghan) September 18, 2019
And it's paying off. https://t.co/X5Cti4atIz
A huge shout out for the achievement goes out to the staff, led by Dave Brundage and Steve Kline, the behind the scenes team (including old MCCC friend Conner Penfold), first year Farm Director Kyle Haines and his team — and, of course, to all of the many many players who suited up for the RiverCats in 2019.
YOU’RE ALL CHAMPS!
And so we come to the end of a very satisfying minor league season and Minor Lines will shortly go into hiatus for the winter (though we have a couple of nuggets planned to round out the week).
But never fear...baseball never really goes away for long. And as the sun sets on the minor league season it rises on something else just as wonderful — guess what starts tonight!