Pelicans ace Clifton named Carolina League’s top arm

pel-29Myrtle Beach Pelicans right-hander Trevor Clifton has been named the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Year, the league office announced Saturday. Clifton becomes the first Pelican to win the honor since Robbie Ross in 2011, and the fourth Myrtle Beach pitcher to take the award.

Clifton leads the Carolina League in ERA at 2.87, nearly a full run better than second-place Jordan Stephens of Winston-Salem. Clifton paces the circuit in WHIP (1.19) and, among starters, strikeouts per nine innings (9.7). The right-hander is also second in the league in batting average against (.229).

The Chicago Cubs’ 12th-round pick out of Heritage High School (Tenn.) in 2013, Clifton won the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Month award for May. He made five starts during the month, going 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 28.0 innings. Clifton struck out 35 and walked only seven, which helped him put together a string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings from May 5-30. The Maryville, Tenn. native finished May second in the league in ERA and strikeouts, and in a tie for third in wins.

A Carolina League midseason All-Star, Clifton had a 10-start stretch from April 21-June 18 in which he allowed just nine earned runs in 51.2 innings for a 1.57 ERA. During that span, he whiffed 55 against 18 walks and 41 hits allowed. In addition, during his August 3 start in Frederick, Clifton took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before departing after Jomar Reyes’ leadoff double.

The Carolina League has recognized one Pitcher of the Year in every season since 1979. The aforementioned Ross was the last Myrtle Beach hurler to win the award, with Christian Parra and Trey Hodges also accomplishing the feat in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

With help from Clifton, the Pelicans have won 26 out of their last 33 games, clinching their league-best sixth consecutive postseason appearance in the process. Myrtle Beach currently owns a 1.0 game lead on Salem for the Southern Division’s second half title.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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