Pelicans win Carolina League title in dramatic fashion

Cubs No.4 prospect allows one run in six frames, No. 9 prospect scores winning run in bottom of the ninth

Pelicans win Carolina League title in dramatic fashion

Duane Underwood Jr. spent most of the second half on the disabled list, but the right-hander showed no signs of rust Wednesday in Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach's biggest game of the year.

Staked to a 2-0 series lead over Wilmington in the best-of-five Carolina League finals, the Pelicans called on Underwood Jr., the team's Opening Day starter, to complete the sweep.

The Cubs' No. 4 prospect (No. 71 overall) responded to the challenge with one of his better performances of the season, while center fielder Pin-Chieh Chen came through with a walk-off, bases-loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game, 3-2, and the series for the Pelicans.

Underwood Jr. allowed one run on five hits and struck out a season-high seven batters over six innings, throwing 54 of his 85 pitches for strikes. The 2012 second-rounder yielded a run in the third inning but bounced back to strike out the next five hitters and retire 10 of the final 12 batters he faced in the outing.

The 21-year-old right-hander missed 55 games during the heart of the regular season after he was placed on the 7-day disabled list on June 28 with an elbow injury. At the time, Underwood Jr. ranked fourth in the Carolina League with a 2.66 ERA through 64 1/3 innings.

The Cubs proceeded cautiously with Underwood Jr. following his injury, having him build up arm strength in the Rookie-level Arizona League before assigning him back to Myrtle Beach. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder made just two starts for the Pelicans after his return to the mound -- during which he combined to allow two earned runs on six hits in nine innings - before toeing the slab on Wednesday night. He went 6-3 record in 12 starts during the regular season, finishing with a 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 24 walks (2.8 BB/9) and 54 strikeouts (6.2 K/9) in 78 1/3 innings.

The Pelicans' offense provided Underwood with an early lead, pushing across one run in each of the first two innings. No. 22 prospect Victor Caratini started the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and finished the game 2-for-3 with a double. The 22-year-old catcher was 7-for-11 with three doubles and four RBIs in the three-game series.

Shortstop Gleyber Torres crossed the plate in the second, coming around to score on a Daniel Lockhart double after walking and stealing second base. The Cubs' No. 1 prospect (No. 31 overall) also laid down a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning to put No. 9 prospect Mark Zagunis, who would eventually score the winning run, on third base.

Royals No. 15 prospect Alec Mills was strong in a no-decision for Wilmington, allowing two earned runs on five hits in six innings. The 23-year-old right-hander issued a pair of walks and fanned six before departing the game after 86 pitches (55 strikes). Mills posted a 3.02 ERA with 111 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 113 1/3 innings (21 starts) during the regular season.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.