Nicolino, Jacksonville win Southern League title

Nicolino, Jacksonville win Southern League title

Double-A Jacksonville finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, clinching a playoff spot on the last day of the season. The hot streak continued in the playoffs, culminating Friday with a 6-1 victory against visiting Chattanooga to complete a sweep of the best-of-five Southern League Championship Series.

Friday's win was the Suns' 16th in 17 games. Jacksonville's lone loss since Aug. 21 was a 4-3 defeat at Mobile in Game 2 of their semifinal series last Friday.

Against Chattanooga, Jacksonville was led by left-hander Justin Nicolino, the 2014 Southern League Pitcher of the Year. Like the rest of the team, he finished the season on a hot streak, winning his final five starts, including two victories in the playoffs.

On Friday, Nicolino, the Marlins' No. 4 prospect, threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out three batters, walked two and scattered seven hits.

The Suns gave their ace an early lead, thanks to a three-run home run from first baseman Viosergy Rosa in the first inning. The 24-year-old finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk, a run and four RBIs. The homer was his fourth of the playoffs.

Second baseman Austin Barnes, the Marlins' No. 16 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI. Catcher J.T. Realmuto, the club's No. 7 prospect, added a hit and a run.

In 30 starts during the regular season and the playoffs, Nicolino went 16-4 with a 2.74 ERA. He struck out 87 batters and walked 23 in 180 innings. During the regular season, he led the Southern League in wins (14) and ERA (2.85) while throwing two shutouts.

Jacksonville went 45-25 in the second half of the season to win the South Division. It defeated Mobile in four games in the semifinals to advance to the finals for the first time since 2010. The Suns also won that series and have now won six Southern League championships in franchise history.

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.