The Durham Bulls will bring their second Triple-A national championship back to North Carolina.
The International League champion Bulls rallied past the Pacific Coast League champion Memphis Redbirds, 5-3, Tuesday night to win the Triple-A title game at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., outside Scranton.
Named the game’s most valuable player, Kean Wong led Durham with three hits, including a fourth-inning grand slam that put the Bulls in front for good.
With five International League championships, Durham has now won the overall Triple-A national title twice. The Bulls also beat Memphis in the 2009 Triple-A title game.
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Brent Honeywell, Durham’s fifth pitcher, hurled 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and walking one with one strikeout. He gave way to Diego Castillo with two outs in the eighth inning.
Castillo completed the eighth inning but issued a one-out walk in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate. Castillo struck out Nick Martini looking and Tyler O’Neill hit a fly ball to left field, which Patrick Leonard caught to wrap up the championship.
“The bullpen has been a huge bright spot for us all year long,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said on the NBC Sports Network broadcast. “To get the ball to them was big for us.”
Durham fell behind in the first inning when Memphis took a 2-0 lead on Jacob Wilson’s two-run double off Bulls starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough.
The Bulls cut the deficit in half in the third inning when Johnny Field scored on a Jake Bauers groundout. Memphis pushed its lead to 3-1 in the top of the fourth when Jeremy Martinez drove in Breyvic Valera with a sacrifice fly.
After Memphis starting pitcher Dakota Hudson kept the Bulls in check over the first three innings, relief pitcher Josh Zeid struggled in the fourth inning and the Bulls took advantage.
Zeid hit Shane Peterson with a pitch to start the inning. Justin Williams singled with one out and Field drew a two-out walk to load the bases.
That’s when Wong ripped his home run to deep right-centerfield, erasing a two-run deficit and putting Durham up 5-3.