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South Bend claims second crown in three seasons

Cubs' High-A affiliate won consecutive road games to score title
High-A South Bend went 4-2 in the playoffs to claim its second Midwest League championship in the past three seasons. (South Bend Cubs)
September 22, 2022

Championship Series

Championship Series

Sept. 21

Cubs 7, Captains 4
Just call them the do-or-die kids.

In their second consecutive decisive Game 3 of the postseason, the High-A South Bend Cubs again rose to the occasion by slugging their way to a Midwest League crown over Lake County in the Championship Series at Classic Park.

It was the second league title in three seasons for the Chicago affiliate.

"To win two Game 3's like this, both on the road, we just never quit in that dugout," South Bend skipper Lance Rymel said. "As long as we have a heartbeat, we have a chance and to do that against two really good ballclubs like that really says a lot about this group and how bad they wanted it."

So South Bend used a familiar formula in its championship-clinching victory after pacing the circuit all season in hits (1,095) and batting average (.252). The club combined for 10 knocks, with every starter but one recording at least one hit, and three long balls. Full story »

Sept. 20

Cubs 4, Captains 3
It wasn't nearly as dramatic as Lake County's rally in Game 1, but for South Bend, it was no less important.

Needing a win to stay alive in the Midwest League Finals, the Cubs rallied from a pair of one-run deficits and held on in the ninth inning to even the best-of-3 series with a 4-3 win at Classic Park. Pete Crow-Armstrong's solo homer in the top of the ninth -- his first long ball since Aug. 25 -- proved to be the difference.

Baseball's No. 31 overall prospect tallied his second three-hit performance in the past three games while finishing a triple shy of the cycle. Crow-Armstrong, who also stole a base, is batting .348 with an .870 OPS in 23 postseason at-bats.

South Bend evened the score twice with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings and went ahead for good in the seventh on Luis Verdugo's RBI single.

Joe Naranjo reached base three times, singling twice while driving in a run and scoring once for the Captains. Box score

Sept. 18

Captains 11, Cubs 8
Some players shine when the lights get brighter.

Buoyed by a career-high four hits from Yordys Valdez, Lake County rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to defeat South Bend, 11-8, in the opener of the best-of-3 Midwest League Finals at Four Winds Field. The Captains' offense produced 17 hits to move within a victory of the franchise's first championship since 2010.

Valdes, who had a .243/.309/.304 slash line across two Minor League levels in 2022, got the Lake County offense going with a leadoff triple in the third and scored its first run. An infield single during a five-run fourth and an RBI double in the seventh put the 21-year-old in position for a cycle, but he settled for a second single in the eighth and struck out in the ninth.

The Captains spread their offense around, getting RBIs from six different players while all but one collected at least one hit. Alexfri Planez put Guardians' High-A affiliate ahead for good with an RBI single in the fifth.

Cubs No. 17 prospect Kevin Made homered, doubled and drove in two runs for South Bend, which jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second. Box score


Sept. 16

Captains 6, Loons 5
For the second straight night High-A Great Lakes fended off elimination. This time, the Captains punched their ticket to the Championship Series and a date with South Bend for the Midwest League title.

Led by the four-hit, three-RBI effort of Alexfri Planez, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, Lake County held on late for the series-clinching victory. Planez opened the scoring with a three-run blast to left in the opening inning. He added a single in the third, his third double of the series in the fifth and another single in the seventh. Yordys Valdes also chipped in with a trio of knocks -- his biggest being a two-run double in the fourth. He finished with a pair of two-baggers.

Captains relievers Trey Benton and Jordan Jones sealed the victory with scoreless appearances to finish the game. Benton recorded the final out of the sixth before tossing two more frames, while working around one hit and striking out a pair. Jones recorded the save with a perfect ninth, fanning two.

Dodgers' eighth-ranked prospect Jose Ramos and ninth-ranked Dalton Rushing each notched a single and drove in a run for Great Lakes. Ramos also came around to score for the Loons. Box score

Cubs 9, Kernels 3
After failing to advance to the championship series on Thursday night, South Bend did not miss twice -- closing out the semifinals with a decisive victory.

The Cubs set the tone early with a four-run opening frame and all but sealed their fate with a pair of runs in the ninth. Chicago's top-ranked prospect (MLB No. 31) Pete Crow-Armstrong paced the offense with a three-hit performance and scored three times. No. 10 prospect Owen Caissie turned in one of his most productive games of the year, recording a pair of sacrifice flies to go with a pair of RBI knocks, including a two-bagger, to finish with a team-best four RBIs and a run scored.

On the hill, Daniel Palencia sparkled over five scoreless frames. The Cubs' 19th-ranked prospect scattered a pair of hits and did not issue a walk while fanning eight.

Mikey Perez delivered a two-run single with two outs in the seventh for Cedar Rapids, but the comeback attempt was thwarted. Box score

Sept. 15

Kernels 5, Cubs 3
After Cedar Rapids and South Bend traded runs in the early part of Game 2 of the league semifinals, the Kernels bullpen took matters into its own hands -- three pairs of them, to be exact.

Twins prospects Jaylen Nowlin, Miguel Rodriguez and Ryan Shreve combined to toss five scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out seven to force a decisive Game 3. Nowlin became the pitcher of record when the Kernels took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning with a three-run frame. Runs scored on a walk, a hit batsman and a balk, all with the bases loaded.

Cedar Rapids briefly held the lead in the bottom of the third when third baseman Wander Javier drilled a solo home run. An RBI single from Pablo Aliendo and a solo home run by Fabian Pertuz swung the game back over to the Cubs before the Kernels' rally.

Both bullpens were heavily involved in the contest. South Bend starter Porter Hodge and Cedar Rapids starter Travis Adams each went four innings, with the latter striking out four before handing off to Nowlin. Box score

Captains 2, Loons 0
Tommy Mace turned in one of the strongest outings of his career at an opportune time.

With Lake County needing a win to keep its season alive, the 23-year-old scattered three hits over 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts, leading the way in a shutout to send the series to Game 3. Relievers Alaska Abney and Raymond Burgos did not allow a hit while recording the final 11 outs.

Guardians prospect Yordys Valdes broke the ice in the fourth inning, doubling in a run to put Lake County ahead 1-0. The score remained that way until the eighth, when Micael Ramirez singled up the middle to provide an insurance run.

The Loons relievers were equally as impressive, though their offense mustered just three hits. After starter Adolfo Ramirez was lifted in the fourth, five pitchers combined to allow just one run the rest of the night. Box score

Sept. 13

Loons 7, Captains 2
Great Lakes used an early rally and a team effort on the mound to top Lake County in Game 1 of the semifinals at Classic Park. Outfielder Damon Keith starred for the Loons, homering in the second to kick off the scoring and driving in another run with a key ninth-inning single as Great Lakes jumped ahead in the best-of-3 series.

Los Angeles' No. 19 prospect Carlos Duran, Ryan Sublette, River Ryan and Ben Harris combined to keep the Captains in check. They got offensive support from outfielder Yunior Garcia, who doubled home two runs in the critical three-run second, and the Dodgers’ top 2022 Draft pick Dalton Rushing, who added a two-RBI single in the seventh.

Milan Tolentino, the No. 22 Guardians prospect, homered in the third for Lake County.

Ryan struck out seven over 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win for the Loons, who punched their ticket to the postseason by storming back from 8.5 games behind to claim the East Division first-half crown in June. Box score

Cubs 2, Kernels 1
In the postseason, the little things loom large.

South Bend capitalized in a big way, using a small-ball eighth-inning rally to take Game 1 from the Kernels at Four Winds Field. Yohendrick Pinango, Chicago's No. 18 prospect, scored the tying run on a throwing error by pitcher Bobby Milacki, Fabian Pertuz followed with a go-ahead single and Jake Reindl struck out the side in the ninth to put the Cubs ahead in the best-of-3 series.

The late rally capped a classic pitchers' duel between the game's starters -- the Kernels' David Festa and South Bend's Luis Devers. Minnesota's No. 11 prospect struck out 10 while scattering two hits over six scoreless innings, while Chicago's No. 26 prospect gave up one run on five hits and two walks while fanning four in six frames. Box score

How they got there

Sept. 3

South Bend Cubs

They lost the game, but won the West Division second-half title. With an assist from Quad Cities topping Beloit, South Bend made a date for the postseason despite losing their contest against Lansing. The Cubs went 37-22 (.627) with a +44 run differential in the second half to build up enough of a lead to become the first club to seal a second-half bid.

South Bend was strong on both sides of the ball during the second half. Top Cubs prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong and his .317 average helped the club best the Midwest League with 514 hits. From the bump, South Bend led the league with a 3.50 ERA, getting dominant starts from Chicago's No. 22 prospect, Porter Hodge.

June 22

Great Lakes Loons

On June 9, the Dodgers' High-A affiliate stood 8.5 games behind Dayton with a 28-24 record. But Great Lakes turned on the jets and went 12-1 after that to zip past the Dragons and grab the East Division first-half crown with a 40-25 mark. The comeback was completed when the Loons rallied to a 4-2 victory over Fort Wayne.

Great Lakes stands third in the Midwest League in runs scored (317) and RBIs (290), led by Jonny DeLuca and Imanol Vargas. Outfielder DeLuca has posted team highs of 41 runs (fourthbest in the league) and 38 RBIs (eighth-best), while first baseman Vargas has compiled a .265/.411/.858 slash line with 34 runs and 20 RBIs. The pitching has contributed greatly as well, with an overall ERA of 3.75 (third-best on the circuit). Dodgers No. 13 prospect Nick Nastrini leads the squad with 71 strikeouts over 44 2/3 innings (including seven in the clincher) and Michael Hobbs is tied for third in the league with six wins. Gameday box score

June 18

Cedar Rapids Kernels

The Kernels' clinch of the West Division first-half title came on their 40th victory of the year, more than any other team in the circuit and six more than any other team in the division. Cedar Rapids picked up its 11th win over its past 16 games with a 9-5 victory over Dayton.

This marks the ninth straight postseason berth for the Twins affiliate. The Kernels had five winning streaks of five games this season, and they lead the Midwest League in runs (341), triples (25), home runs (75), while their pitching staff boasts a league-best 3.10 ERA. Gameday box score