Castro paces Hillcats in championship win

Castro paces Hillcats in championship win

The Lynchburg Hillcats claimed a share of the Mills Cup Championship on Saturday with a 7-1 win over Frederick in Game 3 of the Carolina League finals.

The Hillcats' offense used two big innings to support a brilliant effort by Lynchburg's staff, which flirted with a combined no-hitter before finally surrendering a one-out single in the sixth inning -- one of two hits collected by the Keys in the contest.

"It was pretty cool, I'd say we sort of came full circle," Lynchburg manager Tony Mansolino told MiLB.com. "We started off the year 1-6 and I remember sitting down with our pitching coach, Rigo Beltran, who tried his best to calm me down. He pitched in the bigs with some pretty solid teams and knew what we had here. We just focused on the development of players like we always do and it went from there."

Brock Hartson started for the Hillcats and dominated over four hitless frames. The 24-year-old right-hander issued one walk and struck out seven while facing one over the minimum.

Right-hander Adam Plutko allowed a hit in relief of Hartson but was sharp otherwise, striking out two over 1 2/3 innings, while Ben Krauth recorded the final out in the sixth inning.

Luke Eubank struck out the side in the seventh inning and then fanned one more batter in the eighth, with the 23-year-old right-hander throwing 15 of his 18 pitches for strikes across the two perfect frames. In the ninth, Argenis Angulo allowed the only run before inducing a groundout to first base to end the game and secure a title for the Hillcats.

Lynchburg struck first in the contest, scoring four runs in the bottom of the third inning thanks in part to two errors by Frederick infielders. Gavin Collins put his team on the board when he plated two runs with a hit to center field, while Martin Cervenka delivered a two-run double with two outs to extend the lead.

The Hillcats put up another crooked number in the sixth, with shortstop Willi Castro capping a three-run inning with a two-run single to right field after a run had already scored via a passed ball.

Castro, the Indians' No. 10 prospect, paced Lynchburg's offense with three hits, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs to finish the series with a .308 average. Mitch Longo led the Hillcats in hitting in the postseason with a .462 average, while outfielder Andrew Calica batted .400.

The odds appeared to be against Lynchburg winning its share of the Mills Cup this year after it dropped the series opener to Frederick, 10-9.

But an ace-like performance from Indians No. 2 prospect Triston McKenzie (No. 21 overall) on Friday night helped the Hillcats stave off elimination, setting the stage for his team's impressive, well-rounded victory in Saturday's winner-take-all Game 3.

The Carolina League cancelled the finals because of hurricane Irma, so the two finalsts are splitting the title. The Hillcats share the 2017 Mills Cup title with the Down East Wood Ducks, who completed a sweep of Myrtle Beach on Friday night in the circuit's other semifinals matchup.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.