The opportunity to win a third straight Mills Cup Championship became a reality on Wednesday night when the Pelicans defeated the Frederick Keys 3-0 to become the first team in minor league baseball to clinch a playoff spot. The Pelicans have thundered away at the Carolina League the past three weeks, winning 17 out of their last 21 games.
— MyrtleBeachPelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) June 15, 2017
That streaking performance has been buoyed by excellent starting pitching from Thomas Hatch. Last year’s top draft pick went 8 shutout innings Wednesday, scattering six hits and collecting seven strikeouts. His June ERA is now a mere 0.45 over 20 innings. Adbert Alzolay put together outstanding starts too, striking out 67 in 70 IP. With a wicked fastball that he can command and maintain at 96 through 6-7 innings, hitters are struggling to hit even .200 against him.
Top prospect Oscar de la Cruz is on the DL so reliever Michael Rucker stepped in and has only allowed one run in his two starts. Justin Steele is revitalized this year with a 2.51 ERA and Ryan Kellogg is getting better after recovering from the WBC.
The Pelicans bullpen has been lights out this month with Dillon Maples (who was recently promoted to Tennessee), Pedro Araujo, and the return of lefty Jordan Minch.
As for the offense, it is not all about Eloy Jimenez, but he helps. Carolina League All-Stars Bryant Flete and Daniel Spingola have been at or near .300 all season and 3B Jesse Hodges is one of the hottest players on the team this month, hitting .293 over his last 12 games.
I am sure there will be some promotions to Tennessee and from South Bend that will change the look of the team in the coming weeks. However, I think Manager Buddy Bailey will keep the Pelicans focused on the task at hand.
Myrtle Beach closes out the first half this Sunday and then takes a break until the June 20 when the second half begins.