Thursday | December 14, 2017
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Kean Wong slams Cardinals’ affiliate, fuels Durham to Triple-A title

Often this season it has been wondered where the Cardinals would be without a steady stream of impact additions from Memphis.

The Cardinals kept calling up Class AAA reinforcements.

And somehow the Redbirds kept rolling.

The inspiring team led by former Cardinals fan favorite and first-year manager Stubby Clapp shattered records, earned awards, claimed a Pacific Coast League championship and looked to be on their way to winning Tuesday night’s Class AAA National Championship — until a Cardinals’ younger brother stole the show.

Hilo’s Kean Wong, perhaps you’ve heard of his older brother Kolten, swung a damaging bat and flashed a masterful glove as he willed the Tampa Bay Rays’ Durham Bulls to a 5-3 comeback win against the Redbirds in the one-game, winner-take-all championship at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa.

The 22-year-old Wong was named the game’s MVP after he went three-for-four with a single, a double and a game-flipping, fourth-inning grand slam. He also turned in three impressive plays at second base to help hold the Redbirds scoreless after his slam made Memphis reliever Josh Zeid the losing pitcher.

News spread quickly to the Cincinnati Reds’ visiting clubhouse.

“Congratulations to Memphis on a great season,” Kolten Wong said there. “They did an amazing job. But proud of my brother, man. Blood is always thicker than anything else. To hear what he did, I’m definitely proud of him. I hope the Rays see something in him and give him a chance.”

Three times, including in the ninth, the Redbirds saw the tying run reach the plate, but a combination of winning pitcher Brent Honeywell and Diego Castillo, who earned the save, teamed up to deliver four scoreless innings.

The Redbirds had secured a 3-1 lead for starter Dakota Hudson, who allowed one earned run on a groundout, walked two and struck out five in three innings.

Jacob Wilson’s first-inning double off Durham starter Ryan Yarbrough scored both Tyler O’Neill, who singled, and speedy right fielder Jose Adolis Garcia, who turned a hit-by-pitch into a showcase of his elite speed.

Garcia also flashed his impressive arm on a play that perhaps kick-started Wong.

Before the Redbirds and Bulls traded sacrifice flies to make it 3-1, Garcia threw out Wong as he attempted to spring from first to third on a teammate’s first-inning single. Memphis third baseman Aledmys Diaz’s tag left Wong slow to get up, and broadcasters wondered if he was injured. He was just getting started.

The Redbirds hosted last year’s Class AAA national championship. Clapp tossed the ceremonial first pitch. Flash forward a year, and the Pacific Coast League manager of the year was in the nationally-televised spotlight.

His first season in Memphis since he played there resulted in the franchise’s third PCL championship (its first since 2009), increased average home attendance and the team’s first All-PCL member (third baseman Patrick Wisdom) since 2013.

Despite a revolving door of players, the Redbirds won 91 games, more than any of their predecessors.

Kean Wong left them wanting one more.

“He’s special,” Kolten Wong said. “He’s a good player. I’ve been saying this for awhile: He’s going to be better than I am.”

 

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