FORT MILL, S.C. -- Matt Zaleski is the longest tenured Knight. It was only fitting that he was on the hill on Saturday.
Zaleski, who was the winning pitcher the night the Charlotte Knights clinched the International League South Division earlier this season, pitched into the ninth inning, Greg Golson launched a key two-run home run, and the Charlotte Knights beat the Indianapolis Indians 6-4 to advance to the IL Governors’ Cup finals on Sunday morning at Knights Stadium. It was just after midnight when the Knights ended the best-of-five series with the victory. The game started one hour and 54 minutes late due to rain and lasted three hours and six minutes on top of that.
Charlotte, who won 83 games in the regular season, went on to win the series three-games-to-one.
It was 2009 when Zaleski threw his first pitch for Charlotte. Four years and 382.2 innings later, Zaleski earned his 19th overall win with the Knights on Sunday.
Inning after inning, Zaleski was on point. He allowed his first run of the game in the fifth on a leadoff home run by Yamaico Navarro. He settled down and went to the ninth with a five-run lead. While the Indians battled back and knocked Zaleski out of the game in the ninth, reliever Santos Rodriguez recorded the final two outs of the game to send Charlotte to the finals.
In all, Zaleski allowed three runs over 8.1 innings pitched – the longest of his career, to earn the victory.
As for the offense, a night after getting just two hits and no runs, the Knights jumped out early on Indianapolis. Seth Loman, who entered the game with a .500 average in the playoffs, hit an RBI double in the first to give Charlotte an early 1-0 lead. Josh Phegley, an Indiana native, then singled in the club’s second run of the game to make it a 2-0 ballgame. The Knights tacked on one more after a fielding error by Indians shortstop Chase d’Arnaud to make it 3-0 Knights.
The Knights then continued their offensive assault one inning later.
In the second, Golson came through with a big two-run home run off of starter Kris Johnson (0-1) to make it a 5-0 game. Charlotte added a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Loman to make it a 6-1 ballgame.
The Charlotte Knights will now move on to face the Pawtucket Red Sox on Tuesday from McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. Pawtucket beat the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 7-1 on Saturday and took their series three-games-to-one.
Charlotte will host game three on Thursday, September 13 at Knights Stadium at 7:15 p.m. If necessary, the Knights could also host games four (Friday, September 14) and five (Saturday, September 15) at Knights Stadium. Both of those games are also scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
2012 IL Playoff tickets for next week’s games are available at the Knights Ticket Office located at Knights Stadium, online at www.charlotteknights.com, or by phone at 704-357-8071 (North Carolina) or 803-548-8050 (South Carolina). Baseball Fans Wanted... No Experience Necessary!