It took a first-year manager to steer the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Marlins' Single-A affiliate, to their first Florida State League championship.
After going 35-31 in both the first and second halves of the season, Nelson Prada's Hammerheads were a model of consistency in the East Division this season. And Jupiter continued to show consistency, particularly at the plate during the postseason. In three of their last four postseason contests, they scored seven or more runs.
Averaging 5.2 runs per game across both their semifinals sweep of Palm Beach and their best-of-3 Finals win, the Hammerheads closed out the Clearwater Threshers in the finale by playing small ball. They scored seven runs on three hits in Wednesday's 7-4 victory. Full story
Threshers 3, Hammerheads 1
After allowing seven runs to Jupiter in the Championship Series opener, Clearwater flipped the script to tie up the Finals.
Led by starter Jean Cabrera, the Threshers scattered seven hits over nine innings. The right-hander allowed the lone run on five hits and one walk while striking out six over six innings of one-run ball. Cabrera only gave up one hit in 6 1/3 frames in his playoff opener against Lakeland.
Righty Estibenzon Jimenez punched out six while giving up two hits over the final three frames.
Jordan Viars delivered a two-run triple for Clearwater in the sixth inning on a two-hit night for the Phillies’ No. 25 prospect. Ricardo Rosario added the Threshers' other run on a fielder's choice.
Hammerheads starter Noble Meyer, the Marlins' top prospect, allowed one hit and three walks while striking out three in the first two frames of the game. Kemp Alderman (MIA No. 9), Ian Lewis (MIA No. 30) and Mark Coley II had multihit nights for Jupiter, with Coley doubling in the team's lone run. Box score
Hammerheads 8, Threshers 7
In a back-and-forth affair, Jupiter escaped with a win in the opening game of the Championship Series at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium by maximizing every offensive opportunity. The first eight batters in its lineup each scored a run.
The Marlins' Single-A affiliate scored eight runs on just five hits by only stranding one runner the whole game. The Hammerheads put together two big scoring innings, which was enough to put them a win away from their first title in franchise history.
Brett Roberts got Jupiter on the board three batters into the game with a two-RBI triple, and he came around to score on a sacrifice fly by ninth-ranked Marlins prospect Kemp Alderman (2023 second-round pick). The Threshers fought back by scoring four in the sixth inning, but the Hammerheads quickly retook the lead with Johnny Olmstead's bases-loaded walk and Carlos Santiago's grand slam.
Clearwater was on the brink of completing another rally after loading the bases in the ninth -- Ricardo Rosario plated a run on a hit batsman -- but southpaw Evan Taylor put out the fire by coaxing a game-ending double play.
No. 12 Phillies prospect Emaarion Boyd tripled, singled, stole two bases, drove in three runs and scored another for the Threshers. Box score
Threshers 2, Flying Tigers 1
Twenty-three games into his professional career, Aidan Miller was searching for his first home run.
He hardly could have picked a better game when he finally connected on Friday night.
Miller, the Phillies' 2023 first-round pick and fourth-ranked prospect, socked a decisive two-run homer to left field in Single-A Clearwater's 2-1 win over Lakeland that clinched the Threshers' spot in the Florida State League Finals.
Miller's third-inning home run proved to be all the offense Clearwater needed in the game, as starter Jonathan Petit and four relievers combined to hold Lakeland to one run on four hits. Full story >>
Hammerheads 7, Cardinals 6 (11 innings)
Jupiter went to extra innings for the second straight game, emerging victorious in its second straight to punch its ticket to the Championship Series.
In the top of the first inning, Ian Lewis walked, and then the Marlins' No. 30 prospect used his 65-grade speed to steal second base and advance to third on a passed ball. A double off the bat of Kemp Alderman, Miami's No. 9 prospect, got the Hammerheads on the board.
Lewis also helped wrapped things up in the 11th, tripling in the go-ahead run and then scoring an insurance one on a groundout by Brett Roberts. During the regular season, the infielder led the Hammerheads in runs with 70 and finishing second on the team with six triples in 115 games.
Alderman collected a triple, another double and two runs scored, and Roberts added a couple of singles and crossed the plate once.
Joshua Baez, the Cardinals' No. 26 prospect, homered and scored three runs for Palm Beach. Box score
Flying Tigers 10, Threshers 2
Lakeland utilized contributions up and down the lineup to force a decisive Game 3 with Clearwater. Jose De La Cruz and Josue Briceno led the way with three RBIs apiece.
Top Tigers prospect Max Clark, fifth-ranked Kevin McGonigle, Brett Callahan and De La Cruz all had multihit games, contributing to the team's 11 total knocks. Clark, the No. 3 pick in this year's Draft and MLB Pipeline's No. 15 overall prospect, also walked twice and scored two runs. McGonigle drove in two runs, crossed the plate once and stole a base.
Flying Tigers southpaw Joe Miller scattered three hits and a walk while striking out six over six scoreless innings. Right-hander Eiker Huizi struck out the side in a perfect ninth.
The stellar Lakeland pitching held Clearwater to five hits in the game. Ryan Leitch plated two with a double in the seventh to get the Threshers on the board. Box score
Hammerheads 3, Cardinals 2 (10 innings)
The opening game of the best-of-3 semifinals shaped up as a pitching duel from the start. Top Marlins prospect Noble Meyer toed the rubber for Jupiter, facing off against No. 25 Cardinals prospect Pete Hansen for Palm Beach, and the pair did not disappoint.
Meyer, who was selected 10th overall in this year's Draft, delivered 3 2/3 hitless frames for the Hammerheads before handing the ball over to right-hander Xavier Meachem in the fourth. MLB's No. 55 overall prospect struck out two and walked one.
Hansen spun five scoreless innings for the Cardinals, allowing two hits and one walk while fanning four.
Only one batter on either team ended up with more than one hit, the Hammerheads' Mark Coley II. The outfielder went 2-for-4 and came up big in the bottom of the ninth with a game-tying RBI double to left field that forced extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th with Jan Mercado serving as the designated runner at second base, Jordan McCants laid down a sacrifice bunt. Catcher Sammy Hernandez committed a throwing error on the play and Mercado crossed the plate with the winning run. Box score
Threshers 5, Flying Tigers 0
Matching up against a Lakeland lineup featuring the likes of Max Clark -- MLB's No. 15 prospect -- and No. 5 Tigers prospect Kevin McGonigle, five Clearwater pitchers delivered, limiting the Flying Tigers lineup to just three knocks in the shutout.
The lion's share was handled by Threshers starter Jean Cabrera, who gave up one hit and two walks while fanning five batters across 6 1/3 innings for the Phillies affiliate.
While the Flying Tigers offense was kept at bay by the hurlers, Clearwater tallied 10 hits, eight of which came from the bottom half of the order and nine of which were singles. The Threshers offense strung together five singles in a three-run second. No. 22 Phillies prospect Raylin Heredia, who posted a .288/.342/.409 slash line in 18 regular-season games with Clearwater, went 2-for-4.
Other contributions came from Jordan Dissin, who swatted the game's only extra-base hit, a ninth-inning triple in the ninth, and Troy Schreffler, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Box score