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2008 season recap -- South Atlantic League

The South Atlantic League, which is affectionately known as the "Sally League" by most fans of minor league baseball, is a Single-A league with 16 teams split into two divisions – Northern and Southern.

The teams are located in Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia. The Delmarva Shorebirds represent the Orioles in the league, but they're not the only team from Maryland. The Hagerstown Suns are also a member of the league and they are an affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

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The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers also have affiliates in the league.

Delmarva finished in second place in the Northern Division during the first half (38-31). The Shorebirds were 40-30 in the second half, which was good enough for third place. Overall, their 78-61 record was the second-best finish in the division.

The Lake County Captains, who represent the Indians in the league, won the first half in the division with a 41-29 record. The West Virginia Power, an affiliate of the Pirates, finished in first place in the division during the second half (45-25).

In the Southern Division, the Asheville Tourists, who represent the Rockies, finished 46-24 and won the first half. The Augusta GreenJackets, an affiliate of the Giants, captured the second-half title with a 47-22 record.

The Power beat the Captains in three games to earn their second consecutive berth in the championship series. The GreenJackets, who are owned by Ripken Baseball, swept Asheville to advance to the championship as a representative of the Southern Division.

Offensively, Ryan Adams was a big part of the Shorebirds' success. He hit .308 with 11 home runs, 57 RBIs and 68 runs scored in 119 games. However, the 21-year-old second baseman also hurt the team with his defense. Adams had 52 errors, which was the most by a second baseman in the history of the league.

Although he is considered old for the league, Joe Nowicki led the Shorebirds in most offensive categories. The 26-year-old right fielder was first on the team in home runs (19), RBIs (78), doubles (36), triples (six) and total bases (241). Nowicki also had 14 stolen bases and 74 runs scored, but he struck out 142 times in 130 games.

Matt Angle, who was selected by the Orioles in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, batted .287 with 37 stolen bases and 82 runs scored. Tyler Henson hit .265 with 11 home runs, 62 RBIs and 20 stolen bases for Delmarva. The 20-year-old infielder needs to work on his defense and plate discipline. Henson had 29 errors and only 25 walks in 127 games.

Three starting pitchers for Delmarva won at least 10 games in 2008. Sean Gleason, who started the year as a reliever, was 12-2 with a 2.63 ERA. The 23-year-old right-hander had two complete games this season. He only gave up three home runs in 150 2/3 innings for the Shorebirds. Zach Britton, who was the Orioles' third-round draft pick in 2006, was 12-7 with a 3.12 ERA in 27 starts. The 20-year-old left-hander had 114 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings for Delmarva. Luis Noel was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed 13 home runs, however, in 138 2/3 innings.

Championship

Augusta swept the first three games of the best-of-five series to win the league championship, which was the team's first title since 1999.

Shortstop Juan Ciriaco was 3-for-5 with a three-run home run in the first inning to power the GreenJackets over West Virginia, 9-3, in Game 1. Second baseman Nick Noonan was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and right fielder James Simmons had three RBIs for Augusta.

Augusta starting pitcher Craig Clark picked up the victory in the first game. The 24-year-old left-hander allowed two runs (one earned) and six hits in six innings. He had eight strikeouts in the game. West Virginia's R.J. Seidel suffered the loss after giving up nine runs (seven earned) and seven hits in one inning.

In the second game, Augusta's Madison Bumgarner allowed an unearned run and four hits in six innings to carry the GreenJackets to a 5-1 victory over the Power. The 19-year-old left-hander had six strikeouts and walked two hitters in the game. First baseman Angel Villalona led the GreenJackets with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Catcher Dayton Buller was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

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The GreenJackets completed the sweep by defeating West Virginia, 4-3, in the third game. Noonan was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. Starting pitcher Scott Barnes gave up two runs and five hits in six innings to earn the victory. Despite allowing one run in two innings, reliever Andrew de la Garza collected his third save of the postseason.

Top players

Michael Stanton, Greensboro Grasshoppers – Stanton, who was picked by the Florida Marlins in the second round of the 2007 draft, led the league with 39 home runs in 125 games for Greensboro. The 18-year-old outfielder finished third in the league in RBIs (97) and tied for third with 89 runs scored. He hit .293 with 26 doubles and three triples. Stanton struck out 153 times, however, which was the third-highest total in the league.

Angel Villalona, Augusta GreenJackets – Villalona hit .263 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs in 123 games for Augusta. He also had 29 doubles. While the numbers aren't overwhelming, Villalona should receive recognition because he didn't turn 18 until August. The first baseman had 118 strikeouts and only walked 18 times this season, but he has a bright future in the Giants' minor league system.

Jesus Montero, Charleston RiverDogs – The 18-year-old catcher batted .326 in 132 games for the RiverDogs, which was the second-best batting average in the league. Montero led the league with 171 hits. He was second in total bases (258), fourth in doubles (34) and tied for sixth in runs scored (86). Look for Montero to continue to move up in the Yankees' minor league system. He could be a long-term replacement for Jorge Posada if he's able to keep playing well.

Freddie Freeman, Rome Braves – Freeman hit .316 with 18 home runs and 95 RBIs in 130 games for Rome. The 19-year-old first baseman had 33 doubles, seven triples and 70 run scored. He was third in the league in total bases (256) and fourth in hits (155). The Braves selected Freeman in the second round of the 2007 draft.

Madison Bumgarner, Augusta GreenJackets – The 19-year-old left-hander was 15-3 with a 1.46 ERA in 24 starts for Augusta. Bumgarner led the league with 164 strikeouts and he only walked 21 hitters in 141 2/3 innings. He gave up 10 runs in his first three starts of the season, but only surrendered 18 in his final 21 games. The Giants selected the 6-foot-4, 215-pound starting pitcher with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft.

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