Edmonton, AB – The Edmonton Capitals captured the inaugural North American League championship on Tuesday night with a triumphant 7-3 win over the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, taking the best-of-seven final series 4-1.
After storming out of the gate with three wins in the first three games of the Championship Series — played entirely at TELUS Field in Edmonton — Game 4 on Sunday went to the WhiteWings 5-1. But it didn’t take long for the Caps to bounce back in Game 5, as they captured their first-ever championship in front of 2,670 fans who braved the chilly conditions to witness history being made.
World Series winner and three-year Caps veteran Lou Pote started on the mound for Game 5, which he claimed would be the last game of his professional career, as he plans to retire after the 2011 season. The 2002 champion with the Anaheim Angels didn’t disappoint either, as he scattered six hits and surrendered only two runs across seven innings to close out his career as a champion once again. He was also named series MVP with a pair of dominant victories over the Texas squad.
“I love competing and going out there to try to give my team a chance to win,” Pote said after the championship victory. ”It never matters if I go seven or eight innings, I just want to put them into a position to win. Over the last couple of years I’ve been successful doing that and we’ve also had great teams every year I’ve been here so it feels good good to win with these guys.”
Pote picked up a pair of wins in the series and pitched 15 innings, only giving up three runs while striking out 17 WhiteWings batters along the way. Realizing it could be his last professional start, he tried not to let himself get nostalgic but couldn’t help it.
“I got a little bit nostalgic when I came off the field after Game 1 and I saw the ‘Thanks Lou’ sign in the crowd. That kind of hit home, but after we lost Game 4 I realized I had to throw bullpen and start getting ready for Game 5. Tonight I actually didn’t have very good stuff. We had great defence behind me and that’s why we won the championship — great defence and timely hitting.”
After Jorge Vasquez got the first two outs of the eighth, closer Tom Boleska took the mound and finished off the championship with a pair of strikeouts in 1.1 innings pitched. Offensively, first baseman and fan favourite Brent Metheny was the hero, as he broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a three-run home run. Centre fielder Steve Brown also launched a longball for an insurance run, while second baseman Enrique Cruz, third baseman Carlos Duncan and shortstop Rex Rundgren also each had one RBI.
The Caps are the first professional sports team in Edmonton to capture a league championship since the Eskimos won the Grey Cup in 2005, and the first baseball team to capture a title since the Trappers won the 2002 Pacific Coast League crown. Appropriately enough, the win came in the Caps’ 99th game of the season.