June 18, 2017 - South Atlantic League (SAL) - Kannapolis Intimidators
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. - The Kannapolis Intimidators are going to the playoffs! Micker Adolfo and Seby Zavala homered to power the Intimidators to a 5-3 win over the West Virginia Power on Sunday afternoon at Intimidators Stadium supported by Carolinas HealthCare System. Kannapolis (39-29) clinched the South Atlantic League Northern Division First Half championship with the win, edging out the Lakewood BlueClaws (40-30) with a better winning percentage.
The First Half Division title completes a turnaround for a team that began the season 1-7, quickly falling 5.0 games back and into last place in the 7-team division. Under first-year manager Justin Jirschele, Kannapolis rebounded to capture its first post-season berth since 2009 and third since the organization affiliated with the Chicago White Sox prior to the 2001 season
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Zavala put Kannapolis back in front with a 3-run home run, his league-lead-tying 13th of the season. Adolfo and Brandon Dulin set the table by drawing walks off Power reliever Matt Anderson, and Zavala came through with a 2-out blast 417 feet to straight-away center field.
Jake Elliott kept the Power off the scoreboard in the seventh before allowing a solo home run to West Virginia's Albert Baur in the eighth. Kannapolis turned to closer Mike Morrison for the 4-out save. The All-Star reliever retired all four batters he faced. With two outs in the ninth inning, Morrison got Trae Arbet to fly out to Adolfo in right field as Kannapolis clinched the First Half.
Kevin Escorcia (3-3) earned the win, striking out two while working the sixth inning and allowing an inherited runner to come home. Morrison notched the save (10). Anderson (4-5) took the loss for West Virginia.
Adolfo put Kannapolis on the board first by leading off the home half of the second inning with a home run (8). In the third, the Intimidators added a run without the benefit of a hit. With one out, Joel Booker was hit by pitch, stole second base, and moved to third on a Mitch Roman grounder to the third baseman. West Virginia starter Eduardo Vera uncorked a wild pitch on ball four to Jameson Fisher, allowing Booker to score for a 2-0 lead.
West Virginia tied the game with runs in the fifth and sixth inning, both charged to starter Kelvis Valerio, who did not factor into the decision. With Kannapolis on top 2-1 in the top of the sixth, the Power put runners in scoring position for Carlos Munoz, who singled into the left field, driving in Adrian Valerio for the tying run. On the play, Intimidators left fielder Jameson Fisher threw home to prevent Ty Moore from scoring from second base, keeping the game even.
The 2017 playoff appearance will be the fifth in franchise history, which dates back to 1995 when the Piedmont Phillies reached the playoffs in their inaugural season. The Piedmont Boll Weevils also reached the playoffs in 2000, the organizations final year as a Phillies affiliate. In 2005, Kannapolis made the playoffs for the first time as the Intimidators and captured the franchise's only South Atlantic League championship. The I's last made the playoffs in 2009 when the Second Half division champs fell to the eventual-champion BlueClaws in Division Championship Series.
The Intimidators are off until Thursday, June 22, as the South Atlantic League pauses for the All-Star Break. Kannapolis is sending a league-high seven players - Joel Booker, Alec Hansen, Kyle Kubat, Jimmy Lambert, Mike Morrison, Mitch Roman, and Seby Zavala - to the 58th Annual All-Star Game in Columbia, S.C. Kannapolis opens the Second Half on the road before turning to Intimidators Stadium supported by Carolinas HealthCare System on Monday, June 26, to open an 8-game home stand. Tickets are available by calling the F&M Bank Box Office at 704-932-3267 or by visiting IntimidatorsBaseball.com.