The Birmingham Barons (CHW) held on to a 4-2 lead to defeat the Mobile BayBears (ARI) in ..."/> The Birmingham Barons (CHW) held on to a 4-2 lead to defeat the Mobile BayBears (ARI) in ..."/>

Around the Minors: White Sox Prospect Micah Johnson Leads Birmingham Barons to Southern League Championship

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The Birmingham Barons (CHW) held on to a 4-2 lead to defeat the Mobile BayBears (ARI) in the deciding Game 5 of the Southern League Championship Series. Micah Johnson was 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored.

Known more for his speed, Johnson’s homer was his first at the Double-A level. A ninth-round pick in 2012, Johnson led all of MiLB with 84 stolen bases this season. He started his season in Class-A, moved up to High-A then earned a late season promotion to Birmingham. The 22-year-old struggled to make much of an impression early with the Barons, going 5-for-21 (.238) in the regular season, but he put the 2013 season to rest in style Sunday.

The Barons’ pitching staff shutout Mobile for the final eight innings. Myles Jaye, who made just one start in Double-A during the regular season, gave up two runs over five innings for the Barons. Ryan Kussmaul came in and dominated his 2 ⅔ innings, registering six strikeouts, before Cody Winiarski earned a four-out save.

Here’s what Birmingham manager Julio Vinas had to say about Kussmaul after the game (via Jake Seiner of MiLB.com):

"“Absolutely, I think he’ll pitch in the big leagues. He has a funky delivery, three-quarters from a low slot. He has a lot of movement on his fastball. He probably fed them 90-95 percent fastballs today.He was blowing it by them with good sink. He has an erratic delivery, which really throws hitters off. They don’t take good swings off his fastball, which is a plus for him.”"

Kussmaul, a 26-year-old right-hander, missed mush of the season due to injury. He posted a 2.43 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and had 36 strikeouts against just seven walks over 33 1/3 innings for the Barons during the regular season.

> The San Antonio Missions (SD) won the Texas League Championship thanks in large part to a Johan Limonta grand slam, the teams’ first home run of the postseason. San Antonio also got great pitching in its 5-0 win over the Arkansas Travelers (LAA).

Limonta, 30, had been playing in the Independent Leagues before being signed by the Padres. Originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2006, Limonta was one of the players who accompanied  current Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar who he defected from Cuba. For more on their escape, check out Matt Crossman’s 2011 feature on Limonta from the Sporting News.

Here’s what Limonta told MiLB.com writer Ashley Marshall after the game:

"“I feel really happy, I’m excited to have this opportunity. I feel so happy, I’m blessed right now. I can’t explain how I feel. Everybody has worked so hard for this moment. It’s really exciting. It’s emotional.“[I wanted] to get a good pitch to hit. I’m glad I hit the ball out of the park because it gave us a good lead. Right after I hit the ball, I felt really, really, really great. The good thing is it helped our team win a championship. For me, it was my best at-bat of the whole season. It was a high 2-2 changeup. [Travelers starter Brandon Hynick] threw a really good game, and he just left it up.”"

Josh Geer pitched five scoreless innings for the Missions, giving up three hits while striking out two batters. Matt Wisler, usually a starter, came in relief to throw three perfect innings before Jeremy McBryde closed it out.