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Bradenton bests Tampa for first Florida State League crown

Pirates' No. 5 prospect Keller wins two postseason games for Marauders
MLB.com

For the first time ever, Class A Advanced Bradenton are Florida State League champions.

The Marauders fired on all cylinders to defeat Tampa, 4-1, on Monday in Game 4 of the Florida State League finals at McKechnie Field.

For the first time ever, Class A Advanced Bradenton are Florida State League champions.

The Marauders fired on all cylinders to defeat Tampa, 4-1, on Monday in Game 4 of the Florida State League finals at McKechnie Field.

Tampa took an early lead on Kevin Cornelius' solo home run in the bottom of the second, but Bradenton quickly evened the score in the subsequent frame on catcher Taylor Gushue's solo shot, his second homer of the postseason.

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Bradenton pushed across another run on Gushue's sacrifice fly in the top of fifth, while right fielder Michael Suchy extended the Marauders lead to 3-1 with an RBI groundout to third base. In the eighth, Bradenton tacked on an insurance run when Kevin Kramer's grounder was misplayed by Tampa second baseman Jorge Mateo.

Four runs was more than enough run support for Bradenton starter Jonathan Brubaker, who tossed six innings of one-run ball, scattering six hits and striking out five, to record his second postseason win in as many starts. Right-hander Tanner Anderson replaced Brubaker in the seventh and tossed three scoreless innings to seal the title. He allowed one hit and struck out five of the 10 hitters he faced.

Bradenton won the FSL South first-half division title to secure a spot in the postseason, but then struggled down the stretch, losing seven of its final 10 games to finish the second half with a 32-36 record. The Marauders righted the ship in time for the playoffs, winning five of six games across two series en route to taking home the league title.

Bradenton received strong performances from starting pitchers Mitch Keller and Yeudy Garcia, the Pirates' Nos. 5 and 12 prospects, as well as right-hander Jonathan Brubaker, as they combined to go 5-0 with a 1.39 ERA in 32 1/3 innings (five starts) in the postseason.

Keller, MLBPipeline.com's No. 77 overall prospect, recorded two of those victories, first defeating St. Lucie in Game 1 of the FSL semifinals and then tossing eight scoreless innings to help pace Bradenton in a Game 3 shutout of Tampa in the finals. He finished the postseason with a 2.03 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, during which he allowed nine hits with five walks and nine strikeouts.

Named Most Outstanding Pitcher of the South Atlantic League, Keller paced all qualified hurlers in the circuit with a 0.92 WHIP and finished second with a 2.46 ERA while making 23 starts for Class A West Virginia. The 2014 second-rounder recorded 131 strikeouts against 18 walks in 124 1/3 innings and held opposing hitters to a .211/.258/.304 slash line and just four home runs. The performance netted Keller a promotion to Bradenton ahead of the FSL playoffs, and the 20-year-old right-hander responded to the challenge by tossing six scoreless frames with seven strikeouts in his Marauders debut.

To go along with excellent starting pitching, Bradenton's offense, led by a host of recent early-round Draft picks, outscored its opponents 40-14 in the postseason.

Outfielder Jordan Luplow and designated hitter Conner Joe, the Pirates' Competitive Balance Round A and third-round picks from 2014, both tallied three home runs and seven RBIs while batting .353 and .333, respectively, for the Marauders. Gushue, a 2014 fourth-rounder, also had a strong postseason, finishing with a .333 average, two home runs and three RBIs.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.