Previewing the Southern League Championship Series

Championship Series Will be a Heavyweight Fight

Early look at Tuesday’s Generally Speaking in the Jackson Sun.

The Arizona Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate Mobile BayBears were 40-30 in the first half of this season and coming off a Southern League title in 2011. They featured two of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs as well as the minor league hits’ leader Adam Eaton. But, during the second half while Bauer and Skaggs were making major league debuts and Eaton was collecting his minor league batting crown, it was a struggle in Baseball City.

The BayBears struggled to a 29-41 record in the second half and seemed to be a pushover in the South Division Series for Montgomery. That was not close the case. Mobile took three of four from Montgomery and outscored Montgomery 27-11 and collected 46 hits.

Jackson’s team has evolved as well and you can’t help but think of the great contributions from first half All-Stars like Danny Hultzen, Andrew Carraway, Nick Franklin, Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, Bobby LaFromboise and Brian Moran. All of which have moved up to Triple-A Tacoma or Seattle.

During the 2012 season, the Generals won six of ten regular season meetings with the BayBears and four of five at Pringles Park. Each lineup touts top prospects for their respective major league organizations.

Jackson catcher Mike Zunino, the nation’s top collegiate player in 2012 and No. 3 overall draft pick by the Mariners this year continues to put up monster numbers. Against Chattanooga, Zunino batted .400 with three home runs and seven RBI. His three-run shot on Sunday pushed Jackson’s lead to 8-2 in the ninth inning and was estimated to be 450 feet. Generals’ leadoff hitter Brad Miller hit .444 with four runs and two RBI. Infielder Nate Tenbrink was a triple away from the cycle Sunday afternoon and hit .455 in the semi-final round.

Jackson hit .326 as a team during the Chattanooga series, scoring 18 runs on 45 hits.

Mobile is led by D-backs No. 7 prospect David Nick who batted .533 for the BayBears against Montgomery. No. 6 prospect Matt Davidson tied Zunino with seven RBI.

The advantage the Generals may have is starting pitching. Jackson starters posted a 1.54 ERA and held Chattanooga to a .222 batting average in the North series. Tonight’s starter James Paxton struck out nine and earned the win with six scoreless innings in his first playoff start. Following Paxton will be James Gillheeney in game two and Taijuan Walker in game three, in Mobile. Each collected quality starts in their first postseason outing.

On the line is the Billy Hitchcock Southern League trophy. Mobile is looking for their fourth league title since joining the league in 1997. Also, the BayBears are looking to become the third Southern League team since 1977 to win back-to-back titles.

The Jackson franchise has only won the Southern League title once, in 2000. That team featured future major leaguers Hee-Seop Choi, Eric Hinske, Corey Patterson, Will Ohman, Jose Nieves and Carlos Zambrano.

Jackson hosts games one and two of the Championship Series tonight and tomorrow at Pringles Park, with game times at 6:05 p.m. Admission is free and is a thank you from the Generals organization for the great support this season.

Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: LHP James Paxton (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Chase Anderson (1-0, 3.60 ERA)
Game 2: LHP James Gillheeney (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. LHP David Holmberg (0-0, 1.29 ERA)
Game 3: RHP Taijuan Walker (0-1, 1.23 ERA) vs. RHP Bradin Hagens (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Game 4: (if necessary) LHP Anthony Fernandez (1-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Bolsinger (1-0, 6.35 ERA)
Game 5: (if necessary) LHP Steve Garrison (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Derek Eitel (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Chris Harris is the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Jackson Generals, Double-A Affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Read his blog at chrisharris.mlblogs.com

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