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Canizares seals IL batting title

FORT MILL, S.C. — The Gwinnett Braves sent 16 players to the majors this season. Unfortunately for Barbaro Canizares, he wasn’t one of them.

But the 30-year-old native of Cuba just kept on hitting despite the snub, handily winning the International League batting title.

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G-Braves 7, Knights 0

• What happened: Gwinnett banged out 12 hits and Erik Cordier pitched into the eighth inning as the G-Braves won at Charlotte in the season finale Monday to post at winning record at 72-71.

• Not so wild: The G-Braves finished second in the International League’s South Division for the second straight year, but unlike last season failed to land a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

• Different success: Joe Thurston was red-hot against Charlotte all year, but the last-place Knights (67-77) still won 14 of the 22 games in the season series. Thurston had three hits in the final game and posted a .353 average against the Knights.

• Hurting: With 3B Wes Timmons’ abdominal strain worsened last Wednesday in Norfolk in he didn’t play the rest of the season, finishing with a .293 average.

• Crowd count: Gwinnett finished next to last in IL attendance and Charlotte was last. The season finale drew 4,155.

• Quick work: The final game took just 2:12.

Canizares went into the final game Monday with a 20-point lead and added to it, going 2-for-5 in the 7-0 victory over Charlotte to finish at .341.

The combined shutout by Erik Cordier and two relievers gave the G-Braves a winning record at 72-71 and made for an upbeat ending to the team’s second season in Gwinnett after moving from Richmond.

Canizares finished with a 14-game hitting streak and batted .385 in September after hitting 391 in August.

“He continued to swing the bat right to the end,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “There had to be disappointment about not getting a call. Guys can get frustrated. But he didn’t let it get to him and that says a lot. He loves to hit and he just kept going. He has a real passion for it.

Canizares, a three-time International League all-star, drove in his 77th run against the Knights and finished with 13 homers. He had a .404 on-base percentage thanks to 40 walks and struck out only 53 times.

“There is no question in my mind that he can hit in the major leagues,” Brundage said. “He just needs the right opportunity and the right team.”

That would likely be an American League team, where he could be a designated hitter primarily. He played only a little at first base this season because of the presence of top prospect Freddie Freeman.

Freeman, promoted to Atlanta last week, finished in a three-way tie for second in the batting race at .319 and led the IL in hits and total bases. Jose Costanza of Columbus and Elliot Johnson of Durham also hit .319.

Canizares’ .341 average was the best for an IL leader since Norris Hopper hit .347 for Louisville in 2006.

The G-Braves placed three players in the IL Top 10 as Matt Young finished at .300. Brundage took him out of the finale after two at-bats so there would be no risk of him falling under that mark.

“I wanted to make sure he got it,” Brundage said. “That’s a target number in baseball. He deserved to hit .300 as hard as he works.”

Young, who led the IL with 39 stolen bases, had his best average since his first season in 2005 at Class A Rome, when he hit .312.

“Hitting .300 feels good, especially after the horrible start I got off to this season.” Young said.

For Cordier, it was an awful first game in Class AAA that he had to bounce back from. After failing to get out of the first inning last week at Norfolk, he limited Charlotte to five hits in 71⁄3 innings.

That’s more like the right-hander pitched at Class AA Mississippi, where he was 11-7 with a 3.71 ERA.

“I was pleased to see him come back like that,” Brundage said. “It’s not easy to do after something like what happened in his first start.”

The G-Braves had 12 hits, with Joe Thurston and Brent Clevlen each getting three. Clevlen drove in three runs and Luis Bolivar hit a 2-run homer.

“It was a nice way to end the season,” Brundage said.