Wong, Honeywell lead Durham to Triple-A title

Wong, Honeywell lead Durham to Triple-A title

Kean Wong blasted a go-ahead grand slam and Brent Honeywell dominated in a rare relief appearance on Tuesday as Triple-A Durham overcame an early deficit to defeat Memphis, 5-3, in the Triple-A Championship National Championship.

The title marked Durham's first since 2009. The Bulls (86-56) secured a spot in Tuesday's Championship Game by winning their second Governors' Cup title in the last five years.

"The National Championship is definitely the icing on the cake," Bulls manager Jared Sandberd told MiLB.com. "To win the division, to win the league championship is what everyone's goal is. But then you get here and it's a one-game playoff, and anything can happen in a one-game situation. So for us to be in this situation and take home the National Championship and be crowned the best team in Triple-A is pretty amazing."

Wong was deservedly named the game's Most Valuable Player after his outstanding play on both sides of the ball for Durham. He was the lone Bulls hitter to tally multiple hits in the contest, going 3-for-4 with a grand slam and falling a triple short of the cycle, and the 22-year-old second baseman also made several key defensive plays in the late innings to help preserve the lead.

"I'm always surprised when I hit a home run. I'm not a home run hitter," Wong told MiLB.com. "I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and try to help the team win. I was happy for us to get the lead and I knew my pitching staff was going to shut them down. They're a good team, but I knew our pitching staff was going to be good."

Honeywell, meanwhile, handled Durham's most important frames. Tasked with preserving the Bulls' lead after Wong's go-ahead grand slam, the Rays' top-ranked prospect (No. 11 overall) did just that, retiring eight of the 10 batters he faced over 2 2/3 scoreless frames before passing the baton to closer Diego Castillo.

"That's exciting for not only us in the dugout, the Rays organization, but also the industry of baseball to see Brent Honeywell in another [appearance] after the Futures Game, the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars last year," Sandberg said. "He's pitched some short stints in some big games and he's been dominant."

Memphis struck first in the contest, pushing across two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Tyler O'Neill, batting second and starting in center field, hit a one-out single and advanced to second base when Jose Adolis Garcia was hit by a pitch. Jacob Wilson followed with a ringing double to the left-center-field gap to score both baserunners and give the Redbirds an early lead.

The Bulls collected three hits against Hudson in the bottom half of the frame but ultimately failed to score, as Garcia cut down Wong, who had reached on a one-out single, as he tried to advance from first to third base on Jake Bauers' base hit to right-center field.

Durham would, however, get to Memphis starter and Cardinals No. 8 prospect Dakota Hudson two innings later, when Johnny Field coaxed a leadoff walk, advanced to third on Wong's double to left field and then scored the Bulls' first run on Bauers' groundout.

Though a sacrifice fly by Jeremy Martinez in the top of the fourth inning helped the Redbirds recoup that run, right-hander Josh Zeid, pitching in relief of Hudson, was unable to protect the early lead in the bottom half of the frame,

Once again it was Wong delivering in the clutch, as he launched a two-out grand slam over the wall in right-center field to put Durham ahead for good.

The run support proved more than enough for Honeywell, who was credited with the win after allowing one hit and one walk with one strikeout. The 22-year-old right-hander also recorded four outs via ground balls in the outing, throwing 17 of his 33 pitches for strikes.

Honeywell went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his three postseason appearances (two starts) for the Bulls, compiling 14 strikeouts and three walks in 15 innings.

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.