Omaha wins American Conference


For the fourth season in a row, the Omaha Storm Chasers are American Conference champions and are headed to the Pacific Coast League Championship series. They are just the third team in the league’s history to advance to four straight finals. Their opponent is not determined yet, as Reno currently leads 1-0 in the middle innings (Reno leads the series 2-1).

Omaha got on the board in the top of the first and never looked back en route to their 6-2 victory at Memphis.

Whit Merrifield during 2014 spring training against the SD Padres (Jen Nevius).

Whit Merrifield led off the game with a double and came around to score the game’s first run on Brett Eibner‘s one out RBI single. The score stayed that way until the Storm Chasers batted around in the 5th inning.

They scored four runs in the fifth and it all started with Merrifield’s leadoff home run, his third of the series. After another Pedro Ciriaco hit by a pitch, Paulo Orlando doubled (he had two hits). That brought up Eibner, who once again drove in a run with a single. After a pitching change, the new pitcher tried to pick off Eibner and threw the ball away, allowing Orlando to score while allowing Eibner to move to second base. A wild pitch moved Eibner to third base and then Brett Hayes walked.

Cheslor Cuthbert drove in the inning’s final run with a sac fly. Omaha went on to load the bases before another pitching change, but Merrifield struck out to end the inning.

The Redbirds finally got to Omaha starter Buddy Baumann in the bottom of the fifth on a ground out and a sac fly. The Storm Chasers got one run back in the top of the sixth on a Hayes sac fly.

Baumann was done after five innings. He allowed two runs on three hits and four walks while striking out two. Christian Binford entered for the first time in the playoff series. He walked the first batter he faced. However, he went on to earn the save with four scoreless innings of relief. Binford allowed two hits while striking out four.

The Storm Chasers collected 11 hits, two each by Merrifield, Ciriaco, Orlando, Eibner, and Jorge Bonifacio.

Here are some tidbits via the Storm Chasers press release:

"In the American Conference Championship Series Omaha set a franchise record by allowing only six total runs in the four games, the fewest runs given up in any playoff series. The previous record was nine runs that Omaha allowed to the Indianapolis Indians in the 1978 American Association Championship Series. The Storm Chasers bullpen let in only one unearned run in 13.0 innings against Memphis."

Omaha now awaits the winner of the Pacific Conference, as the first two games will be played at their home park (Tuesday, September 9th and Wednesday, September 10th). Werner Park will host the final three games of the PCL Championship. Game 3 will be held on Friday, September 12th. Games 4 and 5 are if necessary (September 13-14).

During the regular season, the Storm Chasers played both Las Vegas and Reno just once and both came in August. They hosted the 51s (16th-19th) and won three out of four games. They played at Reno (24th-27th) and were swept.