Holmberg Dominates, Milkmen Win American Association Championship
It took just two years, but the Milwaukee Milkmen finished off the Sioux Falls Canaries in Game 5 of the American Association Championship series on Thursday night, winning the league title in just their second season. David Holmberg led the way, tossing 7.1 no-hit innings to stymy the Canaries bats and David Washington and Logan Trowbridge each homered to provide all the offense Holmberg needed in the 4-1 victory. Outfielder Zach Nehrir was named the series MVP after hitting .389 with two homers and six RBI.
Tyler Herron started for Sioux Falls and issued a leadoff walk but retired the next three batters. Milkmen starter David Holmberg dominated the Canaries from the start, striking out the first two batters he faced in retiring the side in order in the bottom half of the inning.
In the second, David Washington gave his team the lead with one swing of the bat. On Herron’s third pitch of the inning, Washington blasted it over the wall in right-center for his first homerun of the series. That gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead.
Herron settled down, however, giving up a single before retiring the side. He then gave up a leadoff double to Washington in the top of the fourth, but Washington was tagged out for a double-play when he was running on a ball hit by Zach Nehrir that was caught by Logan Landon in center. Landon simply threw to second for the twin killing to end the inning.
In the fifth, Milwaukee made this game seem almost insurmountable. Christian Correa led off with a base hit. That brought Logan Trowbridge to the plate, who blasted a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left for a two-run homer to extend the lead to three.
With a 3-0 lead, Holmberg made it seem like it was 100-0. The left-hander retired the first six batters he faced. Roy Morales walked to start the third, and then Holmberg took charge. He retired the next 15 batters he faced, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The lefty had struck out two in the first inning, then had one strikeout in each of the next six innings.
Herron had pitched well through seven as well, despite giving up the two homers. He had allowed just five hits and two walks, while striking out 10.
In the eighth, Herron came out as the Canaries turned to Nicco Blank. He struck out the first batter he faced, then walked Dylan Tice before giving up a double to Adam Walker II. After walking Jose Sermo, Sioux Falls went back to the bullpen.
Ryan Fritze came on and got Washington to hit a fly ball to center that was caught, but Washington raced home on the play. Davis then struck out to end the inning.
Holmberg remained in the game in the bottom half of the inning with the no-hitter intact. He got Alay Lago to ground out to start the frame, but Jabari Henry recorded the first hit with a sharp single into left field. That would end the night for Holmberg, who allowed a hit and a walk in 7.1 innings, striking out eight.
A.J. Schugel came on and was greeted by a Roy Morales single. With two on and one down, Grant Kay hit a deep flyball to left that Walker grabbed about 18 inches from the wall. Mike Hart then hit a hard liner to right, but right at Nehrir for the third out of the inning.
In the ninth, the Canaries put together one last rally. Landon led off with a double down the line in left. He moved to third when Coulter singled two batters later. With runners at the corners and one down, Damek Tomscha hit a flare into shallow left that Mason Davis misplayed. The ball dropped in, but Coulter was not running on the plate, and was thrown out at second on the fielder’s choice. However, Landon scored to make it a 4-1 game. That brought Lago to the plate, who fell behind 1-2, then fouled off three pitches to stay alive before singling up the middle. That brought Henry to the plate as the tying run. Milkmen closer Peyton Gray was laboring but was not to be outmatched, striking out Henry swinging to end the game, finishing off the championship run.
Zach Nehrir was named the series MVP. After struggling during the regular season, the outfielder came alive in the playoffs, recording two hits in each of the three games and driving in at least one run in each of the first three contests. He scored a run in each of the first four games. Nehrir was 7-18 with seven runs scored, three doubles, two homers, and six RBI.
By Robert Pannier