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2008 season recap -- Midwest League

The Midwest League is a Single-A league with 14 teams located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Orioles don't have an affiliate in the league, so I'll just take a look at the championship and the top players.

The Lansing Lugnuts, an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, finished 39-31 in the Eastern Division during the first half and the West Michigan Whitecaps, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, were one game behind them (37-31). The two teams earned berths to represent the division in the playoffs for the first half.

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The South Bend Silver Hawks, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, won the second-half title in the Eastern Division after finishing 43-27. The Dayton Dragons, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, earned the final playoff spot from the division with a 38-32 record in the second half.

In the Western Division, the Clinton LumberKings (41-26) and the Kane County Cougars (39-29) clinched spots in the playoffs for the first half. The LumberKings represented the Texas Rangers in 2008 – they will be a part of the Seattle Mariners' minor league system beginning next season – and Kane County is an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.

The Burlington Bees, who represented the Kansas City Royals in the league, finished 43-26 and won the Western Division title for the second half by 3 1/2 games. The Cedar Rapids Kernels, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, picked up the final playoff spot by finishing 40-30 in the second half.

The Chicago Cubs (Peoria Chiefs), Los Angeles Dodgers (Great Lakes Loons), Minnesota Twins (Beloit Snappers), San Diego Padres (Fort Wayne Wizards) and St. Louis Cardinals (Quad Cities River Bandits) are also represented in the league. The Fort Wayne Wizards will be called the TinCaps beginning next season. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were an affiliate of the Mariners this season, but they'll represent the Milwaukee Brewers beginning in 2009.

Dayton beat Lansing in the first two games of the best-of-three semifinal series to advance to the Eastern Division championship. South Bend knocked off West Michigan, who had won the past two league titles, in the other Eastern Division semifinal series. Burlington swept Kane County and Cedar Rapids took the first two games from Clinton in the Western Division semifinals.

Burlington beat Cedar Rapids in the Western Division finals to earn a spot in the championship game. South Bend completed a two-game sweep over Dayton to capture the Eastern Division title.

Championship

The champion of the Midwest League was supposed to be decided by a best-of-five series, but Burlington was declared the champion after winning the first two games by a combined score of 18-0. Rain forced the third game to be postponed twice and the decision was made by the league president to declare the Bees as champions because of the beginning of the various fall and instructional leagues.

In the first game, Bees starting pitcher Danny Gutierrez struck out 11 hitters and allowed only two hits in six innings as Burlington defeated South Bend, 6-0. The Bees hit three home runs in the game. Third baseman Mike Moustakas connected on a three-run shot in the third inning. Left fielder Jamar Walton and second baseman Johnny Giavotella both hit solo home runs.

Giavotella was 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored in Burlington's 12-0 win over South Bend in the second game. The Bees had 16 hits in the game and scored all 12 runs in the first three innings. Walton also hit his second home run of the championship series and center fielder David Lough had a solo shot.

Burlington didn't lose a game in the playoffs (6-0) and won its first league championship since 1999.

Top players

Mike Moustakas, Burlington Bees – Moustakas, who was selected by the Royals with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, hit .272 with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs in 126 games. The 20-year-old infielder led the league in home runs, finished second in total bases (232) and tied for third in runs scored (77). Moustakas also had 25 doubles this season and he batted .321 after the All-Star break.

Engel Beltre, Clinton LumberKings – Beltre batted .283 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs in 130 games. The 18-year-old center fielder led the league with 87 runs scored and he finished third with 228 total bases. Beltre had 26 doubles, nine triples and 31 stolen bases this season. The 6-foot-1, 169-pound outfielder hit .295 with 22 stolen bases after the All-Star break.

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Ben Revere, Beloit Snappers – The 20-year-old center fielder hit .379 with 17 doubles, 10 triples and 43 RBIs in 83 games for Beloit. Revere, who was drafted by the Twins with the 28th overall pick in the 2007 draft, was second in the league with 44 stolen bases. The 5-foot-9, 166-pound outfielder batted .325 with 10 triples, 29 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 50 games for the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2007.

Jarrod Parker, South Bend Silver Hawks – Parker, who was selected by the Diamondbacks with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft, had a 12-5 record with a 3.44 ERA in 24 starts for South Bend this season. The 19-year-old right-hander had 117 strikeouts and walked 33 hitters in 117 2/3 innings. Parker was 7-2 with a 3.26 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 13 starts for the Silver Hawks following the All-Star break.

Danny Duffy, Burlington Bees – The 19-year-old left-hander was 8-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 17 starts for Burlington this season. Duffy, who was picked by the Royals in the third round of the 2007 draft, had 102 strikeouts and walked 25 hitters in 81 2/3 innings. In his last six starts, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound starting pitcher allowed only one earned run in 29 1/3 innings.

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