Minor league season winds down for locals

The following are updates on local baseball players at the minor league level.

Christian Bergman (St. Francis High, 2006) starting pitcher, Modesto Nuts: For the first time since 2004, the Nuts earned a trip to the California League Championship Series after they captured the league's North Division title by defeating San Jose in a best two-out-of-three series and taking down the Bakersfield Blaze in a three-out-of-five affair.

Bergman, of course, had a big part to play in getting Modesto there. He finished the regular season as the league's pitcher of the year after he went 16-5 with a 3.65 earned-run average in 162 2/3 innings this season.

The former Golden Knight has kept up his pace in the postseason. He picked up a win and a loss in two appearances — one start and one in relief — that spanned 12 innings. He's struck out 14 and given up just eight hits and two walks in the playoffs.

Bergman first pitched seven innings of three-run ball — two earned — in the California League North Division playoff opener against the San Jose Giants in the series opener Sept. 5. The Nuts couldn't save Bergman, who struck out nine, gave up six hits and one walk, from the loss, 3-1. It was his first loss since June 16.

Modesto, which finished second in the North Division in the regular season with a 73-67 record, bounced back and won the next two games in the best-of-three to move on and face the Bakersfield Blaze in the California League North Division Finals. Bergman's only appearance in the series came in relief Monday to start the fifth inning with Modesto leading 6-1.

Bergman picked up the win, 12-1, in dominating fashion, as he pitched the final five innings and struck out five, walked one and gave up two hits to pull Modesto within a game of the of the Blaze, who led the series 2-1 at that point.

The Nuts completed the comeback in the best-of-five set with 3-2 and 6-2 wins on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, to send them to the league finals against the Lancaster Jethawks.

Bergman has yet to appear in the league finals, which were set to continue Saturday at 7 p.m. After dropping the first two games of the series, the Nuts will need to win out in the final three games to capture the Pioneer League title.

Eric Smith (La Cañada High, 2009) catcher/designated hitter, Ogden Raptors: Smith helped lead the Raptors to their first win in a Pioneer League Championship Series Thursday in a three-game set with the Missoula Osprey. The Raptors' league title hopes were dashed Friday, though, when the Osprey defeated them, 10-0, in Ogden.

Smith didn't play in the final game of the Raptors' season, but he always seemed to have an impact when he was in the game, whether it was the regular season or postseason.

The La Cañada High graduate entered the playoffs with a .336 batting average (86 for 256) with 55 runs scored, 55 runs batted in, 17 doubles, seven triples and three home runs. He posted .492 slugging and .417 on-base percentages and didn't cool off.

Ogden, which took first in the league's South Division in the regular season with a 44-32 record, opened the playoffs with a best-of-three league South Division title series against the Grand Junction Rockies. Smith, who was an honorable mention for the All-Pioneer League All-Star team, boasted a .580 batting average (seven for 12) and scored eight runs in the three games with two RBI, a triple and solo homer.

Nik Turley (La Cañada native) starting pitcher, Trenton Thunder: Turley became a Florida State League All-Star with the Tampa Yankees, a class-A advanced affiliate of the New York Yankees, on Aug. 29, and five days later he was bumped up to the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees double-A affiliate.

The Harvard-Westlake graduate made one start in the regular season with the Thunder, who finished first in the Eastern League's Eastern Division with a 79-63 record in the regular season. He picked up the win over the Binghamton Mets, 8-5. He completed five innings and held the Mets to eight hits, three runs — for a 5.40 ERA — one walk and struck out one in the game. Turley was 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA, 116 strikeouts with Tampa.

The Thunder is in the middle of the playoffs in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series with the Akron Aeros. Trenton dropped the first two games of the set on the road, but stayed alive with an 11-7 victory Friday. Turley was set to start a win-or-go-home game for the Thunder against the Aeros Saturday.

Trenton advanced to its league title series by defeating the Reading Phillies in the best-of-five Eastern League Eastern Division series. Turley, the 12th-ranked prospect in the New York Yankees farm system according to MLB.com, picked up the win in the series clincher Sept. 9. He gave up six hits, three runs and three walks and struck out one through five innings before being pulled with his team up two in the sixth inning.

Kelson Brown (La Cañada High, 2006) Altoona Curve infielder: It was definitely a nice sendoff for Brown when he went four for four with a double in the Curve's final game of the season Sept. 3, which was also a 2-1 win over the Erie SeaWolves.

The former Spartan finished the year strong, as he batted .321 (nine for 28) with three doubles and five RBI in his final 10 games of 2012. It helped bring his average to .290 (40 for 138) to end the year. He scored 20 runs and drove in 19 more on six doubles, a homer and triple this season.

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