The Scrappers lived up to their name.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
TROY, N.Y. -- Take note, Cleveland Indians fans. Help may be on the way.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Cleveland's Class A short-season affiliate in the New York-Penn League, won their first championship Monday night with a 4-2 victory over the Tri-City ValleyCats.
"It's great for the organization to see its players having success," Scrappers first-year manager Mike Sarbaugh said. "They're put in pressure situations that will help them down the road."
The Scrappers began in the Mahoning Valley in 1999.
Mahoning Valley's chances for a playoff berth -- let alone a league championship -- didn't seem probable in early August when the team's record slipped to five games under .500.
"Midway through the season, a lot of guys were putting a lot of pressure on themselves," Scrappers relief pitcher Matt Knox said. "It was their first professional season, and guys wanted to do well for their family and friends and the Indians organization."
As their outlook changed, so did their season.
"They started having fun and playing with more emotion, playing like they know they can play, almost like we were back in Little League," Knox said of his teammates. "They started coming together, and it was a beautiful thing."
What resulted was a season-ending run in which the Scrappers won 11 of their final 14 games to clinch one of four playoff positions, joining the Auburn Doubledays, Brooklyn Cyclones and ValleyCats.
In best-of-3 playoff series, Mahoning Valley ousted Auburn and Tri-City in two games each to claim the league title.
Before his team's wild celebration began Monday night, Sarbaugh accepted the championship trophy from league president Ben Hayes and hoisted it toward the nighttime sky.
"These guys wanted this so bad, and it showed the whole series," Sarbaugh said. "It's a credit to these guys. It's awesome."