Of the nine teams in the Orioles' organization, the only one to make the playoffs was the High-A Frederick Keys of the Carolina League. Even the Keys limped into the playoffs, finishing only 64-74 on the season. Frederick won the North Division in the first half with a record of 32-37. That same record in the second half was good enough for only third in the four team division.
The Keys - led by a rotation that included Chorye Spoone, David Hernandez, Jason Berken and Brandon Erbe - finished 7th in the 8 team Carolina League in both runs scored and runs allowed on the year. They were outscored by a whopping 154 runs in their 138 games. To say they were an underdog in the playoffs would probably have been an understatement.
But anything can happen in a short series. We all know that. Facing the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Royals affiliate in the best-of-3 North Division playoffs, the Keys won back to back games, 9-2 and 3-1 to take the series in two straight. After pounding out 17 hits and getting 7 strong innings from starter Brad Bergesen in game 1, the Keys got a tremendous start from rising star Chorye Spoone in the clincher, a complete game one hitter that featured 9 strikeouts from Spoone. The no-hitter was not spoiled until the 9th inning on a two out homerun. But Spoone was not yet done with his postseason heroics.
Next up were the Salem Avalanche of the Astros' organization in a best-of-five series. The Keys took the first game in a tight one, riding another seven inning pitching performance, this time from David Hernandez, to a tough 3-2 win. Salem won the next game 8-4, but Frederick retook the series with a 6-4 win on the road.
The Keys had their ace Spoone back on the hill for the possible series clinching win. Once again Spoone took a shutout into the ninth, leading 5-0. Spoone failed once again to get the shutout, giving up a run on three hits to the Avalanche in the ninth. But more importantly, Spoone suceeded in closing out the win. The single run was accompanied by a whopping 11 hits, but Spoone pitched well enough to strike out 8 and won a well deserved series MVP award.
Congratulations to the Frederick Keys for their second Mills Cup win in three years. Look for Spoone, Erbe, and a few others in the upcoming Orioles Top 20 prospects list.