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Lexington downs ‘Claws for SAL title

minor league hatsThe BlueClaws had 11 walk-off wins this year, and had the bases loaded in the ninth inning down 2-1. But it wasn’t meant to be, as Jose Antequera grounded out into a fielder’s choice to end the Championship Series as Lexington topped Lakewood Friday night to win their second South Atlantic League title.

Tad Ratliff earned the save and closed out all three Legends wins after the BlueClaws took Game One on Monday night.

Lexington won their second SAL title and first since 2001. The BlueClaws dropped their second SAL title in the last three years after losing in four games to Rome in 2016.

The Legends took the lead in the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Cristian Perez to break a 1-1 tie. Perez drove in Brewer Hicklen, who reached on a Connor Brogdon lead-off walk to start the inning. Hicklen just avoided a tag from Rodolfo Duran on a throw home from Jhailyn Ortiz.

The BlueClaws loaded the bases in the ninth on hits by Colby Fitch and Dalton Guthrie, but Jose Antequera grounded out to third base to end the game and the season.

Spencer Howard threw four hitless innings to start, but then allowed three straight hits to start the fifth. An RBI double by Cristian Perez put Lexington up 1-0. After an infield single by Cal Jones, the Legends had first and third with nobody out, already up a run, but Howard was able to escape further damage.

Legends starter JC Cloney came out after five scoreless innings. In the sixth, Marcelo Martinez gave up a hit and a walk and came out of the game with two outs.

Jhailyn Ortiz greeted Janser Lara with a base-hit to right field to tie the game, though Jake Scheiner was thrown out at the plate to end the inning and keep the score level at one apiece.

Lara threw 2 1/3 innings without being charged with a run to earn the win.

Howard gave up one run on three hits for the BlueClaws in his final start of the year.

Opening Day is 202 days away on April 4th.

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