The Class A Hickory Crawdads were crowned South Atlantic League champions on Thursday, defeating Asheville, 5-1, to complete a three-game sweep in the best-of-five finals.
Hickory starting pitcher Yohander Mendez, the Rangers' No. 10 prospect, was credited with the win after allowing one earned run over a season-high 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander permitted his share of baserunners in the outing, scattering nine hits and walking one in the outing, but he managed to avoid serious damage by striking out eight batters and stranding another eight on the basepaths.
The 20-year-old played a major role in Hickory's run through the playoffs, posting a 2.70 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings between two starts. However, Mendez's performance during the postseason was merely a continuation of an eye-opening 2015 campaign during which he recorded a 2.44 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, struck out 74 batters (10.0 K/9) and issued just 15 walks (2.0 BB/9) in 66 1/3 innings (21 appearances/eight starts) for the Crawdads.
No. 3 prospect Dillon Tate also made an appearance in Thursday's title-clinching contest, yielding one hit as part of a scoreless eighth inning. The 2015 first-round Draft pick (No. 4 overall) finished his professional debut on a positive note after Asheville tagged him for two runs on three hits earlier in the series. The 21-year-old right-hander logged only nine innings over six starts during the regular season after signing with the Rangers, allowing just one earned run on three hits while striking out eight in that span.
Meanwhile, right-hander Scott Williams closed out the game to notch his third postseason save. In four appearances, the 21-year-old allowed just three baserunners (two hits, one walk) and struck out seven over five scoreless innings.
Hickory's entire staff was excellent in the finals, holding Asheville to just four runs over three games. Between both postseason series, Crawdads pitchers combined for a 1.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 60/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings.
On the other side of the ball, center fielder Jose Cardona, second baseman Dylan Moore and left fielder Eudard Pinto each collected a hit and plated at least one run the Crawdads. Pinto, 20, drove in a pair with a double in the ninth inning to extend Hickory's lead to 5-1.
No. 22 prospect Jairo Beras arguably was the Crawdads' top hitter in the postseason, batting .250 with a .904 OPS, one home run, four extra-base hits and four RBIs. He tallied three hits and three RBIs in the Asheville series.
No. 28 prospect Jose Trevino also fared well in the playoffs, batting .318 (7-for-22) with two doubles and three runs scored. The 22-year-old backstop collected at least one knock in all six games for Hickory.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.