Aeros clinch Eastern League Championship
Trenton, NJ – The Akron Aeros are the champions of the Eastern League for the 2012 season.
On Saturday night, the Aeros completed a storybook season, and an improbable playoff resurrection, as they defeated the Trenton Thunder, 6-1, to win the EL Championship Series, three games to one.
It is the fourth Eastern League pennant for the franchise since it relocated to the Akron/Canton area in 1989. The latest title will be added to the list with the 2003, 2005, and 2009 Aeros championship clubs.
The Aeros won the EL Western Division regular season title after holding down first place since April 27th. Then, in the Western Division Series against Bowie, the Aeros fell behind two-games to none, and trailed in game three, before rallying to win three straight games at home to advance to the Finals.
Starting the ELCS at home, the Aeros suffered no such letdown and jumped to a commanding 2-0 lead in the series by winning games one and two in Akron. After dropping a wild, 11-7 decision in game three on Friday, the Aeros came out on Saturday and exhibited what brought them to the cusp of a championship—quality pitching, timely hitting, and airtight defense.
Righthander Toru Murata (1-0) made the start for Akron, and worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on three hits. Murata, who had a 1.17 ERA over his last six starts of the regular season, walked none and struck out seven. In the playoffs, Murata made two starts, giving up two runs in 12 1/3 innings.
Akron (82-59, 6-3) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning when ELCS MVP Adam Abraham tripled home Matt Lawson, who had walked. Ryan Rohlinger followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to take a 2-0 advantage on Trenton starter Nik Turley (1-1).
Murata served up a solo homer to Thunder catcher J.R. Murphy in the bottom of the second to make it 2-1. He hit the next batter, but then retired the next 15 batters in a row to all but crush any hopes Trenton had of forcing game five.
The Aeros got that run back in the fifth, getting an RBI single from Roberto Perez to make it 3-1.
Shawn Armstrong took over for Murata in the seventh and fanned two in a row to end the inning. He recorded the first two outs of the eighth before walking Adonis Garcia. Akron manager Chris Tremie then brought on closer Preston Guilmet, who retired Ramon Flores on a fly ball to left to send the game to the ninth.
The Aeros loaded the bases against Ryan Pope and Jordan Henry cleared them with a single to left that was misplayed by Flores into a two-base error. All three runs scored to make it 6-1.
Guilmet induced two groundouts to third to open the bottom of the ninth, but then gave up a single and issued two walks to load the bases. The season ended, however, when Trenton’s Rob Segedin grounded to Matt Lawson at second. Lawson flipped the ball to shortstop Davis Stoneburner for a force at second and the celebration began.
It was Guilmet’s fifth save of the post-season, including three in the Finals.
Abraham, named MVP just after the team pile-up in the infield, went 2-4 in the game and finished the ELCS 5-14, with a homer, two triples and five RBI’s. Rohlinger also had two hits, going 2-2, with a walk and sacrifice fly.
The Aeros combined to win 88 games between the regular season and playoffs. The trip to the Finals was the ninth in franchise history. Trenton had beaten the Aeros in two previous ELCS appearances in 2007 and 2008.