May 12, 2006
The 2006 Kinston Indians were a truly dominant team. The K-Tribe, playing in the smallest city with a full-season minor league team, dominated the first half of the Carolina League season that year, posting a 47-23 record to take the first half championship by 9.5 games over the Winston-Salem Warthogs (Chicago White Sox). While the Indians were not as dominant in the second half, they still went 38-31 en route to a second place finish and a league-best 85-54 overall record. They picked up where they left off at the All-Star Break after Labor Day as they swept through the Mills Cup Playoffs, eliminating the Salem Avalanche (Houston Astros) and Frederick Keys (Baltimore Orioles) without losing a game. The K-Tribe, managed by former Indians farmhand/replacement player (and current Indians Third base/Infield Coach) Mike Sarbaugh, made their their eleventh appearance in the Mills Cup Finals in the twenty season they had been affiliated with the Cleveland nine to that point. Baseball America named LHP Chuck Lofgren the CL’s top prospect of the season (one spot ahead of red Sox prospect Jacoby Ellsbury), with three of his teammates joining him in the top 16: OF Trevor Crowe at 4, LHP Scott Lewis at 10, and OF Brian Barton at 16. Other notable names on that list include Nolan Reimold (who played his summer college ball in NE Ohio for the Stark County Terriers), Neil Walker, and Jed Lowrie.
A prime example of this dominance came on May 12, when they thrashed the Keys 15-3 at Grainger Stadium in Kinston. Back-to-back- solo shots from Barton, who was in left field that day, and DH Stephen Head to lead off the second inning started the K-Tribe onslaught. They followed that up by hitting through the order in a four-run third that did not include a single extra-base hit. The runs kept coming in the fourth as a two-out single off the bat of RF Ryan Goleski added another pair of runs. Going into the fifth, the Indians had run off two pitchers for the Maryland side, each leaving the game allowing four runs while only getting six batters out. After a scoreless fifth, a the-run sixth made it thee Keys hurlers in a row to not get a seventh man out. A four-run eighth completed the Kinston scoring and made it four Frederick pitchers in a row to allow three or more runs (all earned). Needless to say, the majority of the 2,010 in attendance went home happy.
I’ll let some of the stat lines speak for themselves in regards to the K-Tribe”s dominance that night:
1B Michael Aubrey – 1-3, 4 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB
Barton – 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Head – 3-5, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Goleski – 2-5, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 K