LEXINGTON, Ky. — Reed Rohlman provided a legendary moment for the Lexington Legends with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to seal a second straight South Atlantic League championship with a 3-1 win over the visiting Hickory Crawdads Friday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
An announced crowd of 4,199 fans in Lexington saw their team clinch their third overall title, with the decisive game taking place in Lexington for the first time. The Legends became the fourth team in the SAL’s modern era (beginning in 1980) to win back-to-back titles and the first to do so since Lakewood (New Jersey) did so in 2009-10.
The Crawdads were looking for their fourth championship in the club’s history, the second in five seasons. Instead, Hickory suffered its first defeat in the SAL Championship Series and the first road loss in the finals.
Rohlman’s series-clinching home run against Tyree Thompson came with two outs in the inning, which for the Legends was the key stat of the series. Lexington scored 12 of its 15 runs and hit all four home runs in the series with two outs.
After an outburst Thursday night during their 5-1 win, the Crawdads’ collective slump at the plate continued Friday. Hickory managed just three hits and a total of eight baserunners in the game. The Crawdads hit just .167 for the series. The SAL’s leading team in home runs hit just four in six playoff games.
After Zach Haake — a product of the University of Kentucky in Lexington — threw six hitless innings, Hickory scored its only run in the seventh when Pedro Gonzalez, the SAL’s co-leader in homers, hit his first of the postseason.
Lexington scored its first run in the sixth, putting together three hits with Eric Cole’s single scoring Jeison Guzman. Otherwise, the Crawdads’ pitching held tight in hopes their teammates would eventually add their support.
Prior to the walk-off, Lexington went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 for the game.
Jesus Linarez allowed two hits and struck out two over 4 1/3 innings. Hever Bueno allowed the run in the sixth, but struck out four over 1 2/3 innings. Kevin Gonzalez allowed two hits and struck out three over three scoreless innings before turning the game over to Thompson in the 10th.
Thompson worked around a leadoff walk in the 10th, then later got help from Pedro Gonzalez when he held on to a catch after crashing into the fence in right to keep the Legends off the board.
However, Thompson’s leadoff walk of Cole set up Rohlman’s heroics on an 0-1 pitch that cleared the fence in right.