Vinny DiFazio homered to give the Pelicans an early lead and he guided a Myrtle Beach staff that held it as the Birds beat the Kinston Indians 4-1 in the first game of the best-of-five Southern Division Championship Series at BB&T Coastal Field on Wednesday.
Justin Grimm allowed one run in six innings and three relievers three scoreless inning each to close it out.
Getting the Game One start for the Pelicans in his professional debut season, Grimm got into trouble in the first when he loaded the bases with one out. But he struck out Jesus Aguilar looking and Tyler Cannon swinging to wriggle out of the jam.
The Birds got on the board in the second inning against Kinston starter Clayton Cook (0-1). Mike Olt led off with a single and Travis Adair beat out a possible double-play grounder before DiFazio launched a two-run homer to give Myrtle Beach a 2-0 lead. During the regular season, four of DiFazio’s eight homers came against the Indians.
Kinston got a run back in the next frame when Tyler Holt singled, stole second and came home on Adam Abraham’s RBI single to left. The Indians threatened in the sixth when the first two batters reached base and moved to second and third on a sacrifice bunt. Grimm buckled down to get Aguilar on a groundout and Cannon on a strikeout to escape trouble once again.
Grimm (1-0) was terrific in six innings of work, allowing one run on four hits. He walked four and struck out six in picking up the victory. Joe Ortiz gave up a couple of two-out singles in the seventh, but he struck out Bo Greenwell to preserve the lead.
Myrtle Beach skipper Jason Wood turned to Ryan Rodebaugh next for the eighth inning, and the reliever got through the heart of the order 1-2-3 with a flyout and two strikeouts.
Myrtle Beach struggled to cash in on many scoring chances, leaving 11 men on base through the first seven innings, at least one in every frame. Cook was able to grind through five innings in his start, scattering seven hits as he only allowed two runs. Out of the K-Tribe bullpen, Chris Jones stranded a pair in a scoreless sixth and Kyle Landis did the same in the seventh.
The home team finally broke through in the eighth with two insurance runs against Landis. Chris McGuiness, who struck out in his first three at bats, led off with a booming double to center field and moved up a base on Santiago Chirino’s sacrifice bunt. Ryan Strausborger looped a single over the drawn-in infield and into center to bring home McGuiness and make it a 3-1 game.
Two batters later Jared Prince, who was voted the club’s Most Valuable Player by his teammates and coaches on Monday, came through with an opposite-field double to right field that plated Strausborger and gave the Pelicans a three-run advantage. Chirino and Prince both knocked three hits in the win.
Newcomer Matt West, in only his second Carolina League appearance after his promotion from Short Season-A Spokane, got the ball in the ninth. After a strikeout and a flyout, the right-hander induced a tapper back to mound by Roberto Perez for the last out of the game to record the save.