For an encore, Shorebirds rule the roost 2nd-year team brings O's a title, record attendance LTC

September 23, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

There was a preseason question about the Delmarva Shorebirds, who had a tough act to follow.

Could they match their first year, when, as a Montreal Expos affiliate, they went all the way to the South Atlantic League championship series?

The question was answered resoundingly. Now aligned with the Orioles, Delmarva went all the way, period. Kingpins of the league.

"It was kind of unbelievable that so many good things could happen in one season," said general manager Keith Lupton. "We're looking forward to next year, but this is something that will be hard for us to duplicate."

The Shorebirds attracted 31 crowds of 5,000 or more fans to Perdue Stadium and shattered their league attendance record by 9,399.

They overcame a distressing first-half finish when they won more games than Charleston, W.Va., but lost the title and the resultant playoff berth by .002.

That became a rallying point for the second half of the season when the Shorebirds' young roster began peaking. By August, many players were performing their best.

After the clinching victory, manager Tommy Shields lofted the trophy and said: "This says it all."

Delmarva thrived with an overpowering bullpen anchored by Ryan Kohlmeier, Scott Eibey and Gabe Molina, its team speed and strong offensive showings by two of the top position prospects in the system, Ryan Minor and Calvin Pickering.

The Orioles brass left the bulk of the roster intact all season, and major injuries were almost non-existent except for shortstop Evanan Coffie.

"We lived and died with our bullpen, and that wasn't a bad way to live," said Shields. The team ERA was a glittering 3.62, and the four key relievers were at 2.65 or lower.

"This year was a good one to be an Orioles team," said Lupton.

This is the last of a series wrapping up the seasons of the Oriole farm clubs.

Shorebirds review

Class: Single-A

Attendance: 324,412 (South Atlantic League record) for 66 dates.

Record: 77-65 regular season. Qualified as playoff wild card. Defeated Hickory, 2 games to 0, Charleston, W.Va., 2-1, and Greensboro, 2-0, to win title.

Honors and league leaders: 3B Ryan Minor, all-league team. Maximo Heredia, league ERA title (2.13); Ryan Kohlmeier league save champ (24).

Top prospects: IF Minor, IF Calvin Pickering, P Kohlmeier, P Scott Eibey, P Gabe Molina and P Heredia.

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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