LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Hickory Crawdads hit the road for Game 3 of the South Atlantic Championship Series and found their power stroke. Hickory homered twice in support of four pitchers that combined for a two-hitter and defeated the host Lexington (Kentucky) Legends 5-1 at Whitaker Bank Park.
Lexington took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and looked to close out the series Friday night. A win by Hickory would force a decisive Game 5 this afternoon, scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
Hickory snapped a five-game winning streak by Lexington in the SAL Championship Series over the past two years, as the Legends look to win back-to-back titles. Lexington had also won four in a row in this year’s SAL playoffs prior to Thursday’s loss.
The Crawdads also extended their record on the road in SAL Championship Series play to 6-0 all-time, dating back to their first title in 2002. Along with the historical trend, Hickory hopes the current trend continues, as well, as the road team has won all three road games in the series.
Hickory completed the season as the SAL’s top slugging team, but the home run trots for the Crawdads had been limited to one over the first four games of the playoffs. After a homer in the SAL playoff opener eight days ago against Delmarva (Maryland), the Crawdads’ power source dried up and the run production with it. Prior to Thursday’s win, Hickory had scored just five runs over the previous three games.
For the first time in the series, the Crawdads scored the first run of the game in the third inning with the help of Legends starter Charlie Neuweiler. With Jax Biggers on first with two outs, Neuweiler’s balk moved the runner to second. Tyreque Reed made the Legends pay for the free base as he sent a breaking ball to right for an RBI single.
Hickory made it 3-0 in the fourth after Pedro Gonzalez doubled and Miguel Aparicio homered to right.
Crawdads starter Ricky Vanasco struck out the first five batters of the game and faced the minimum until two outs in the fourth. However, Vanasco lost control and walked the bases loaded before giving way to Tai Tiedemann. Tiedemann got out of the inning by getting Reed Rohlman to ground to second.
The Legends continued their series-long success with two outs in the fifth to score their only run. Rudy Martin walked, stole second and scored when Rubendy Jaquez found a hole on the left side of the infield for an RBI single, which was Lexington’s first hit of the game. Ten of the 14 runs scored by the Legends in the series have come after two outs.
Hickory returned fire in the seventh when Reed (3-for-4) served a curveball to right for a solo homer. Reed later capped his night with a sacrifice fly in the ninth to score Jax Biggers for the final margin.
Tiedemann allowed both of Lexington’s hits and the lone run over 2 2/3 innings for the scorer’s decision win. Lucas Jacobsen picked up for Tiedemann and retired the two hitters he faced in the seventh. Nick Snyder closed out the game with two perfect innings, striking out three for his first save of the playoffs.