Lakewood Heads To SAL Championship

The BlueClaws traveled to Lexington Friday night with a 1-0 lead in the Northern Division Championship series. With Matt Maloney on the mound, the BlueClaws beat Lexington 8-2 to sweep the series and head to the South Atlantic League Championship.

Matt Maloney took the mound for Lakewood after leading the South Atlantic League in the 2006 season with 16 wins and 180 strikeouts. Maloney held his own while the BlueClaws' offense got some help from the Legends' defense.

The Legends ended some Lakewood threats in the first couple innings thanks to some double plays. The Legends luck ran out in the top of the third. After a one-out single by Welinson Baez, Brian Bogusevic walked Matt Thayer and Julian Williams to load the bases. The first run scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Spidale when Baez tagged up and came home. With two outs, the inning should have ended on Jeremy Slayden's fly ball to right field but Eli Iorg had the ball pop out of his glove. The error allowed two unearned runs to score and Lakewood took a 3-0 lead.

That lead was extended by a run in Lakewood's half of the fifth inning. Spidale, who had only one home run in over 300 at bats this season, took Bogusevic to the opposite field for a solo shot and the BlueClaws led by four.

After allowing only one hit through the first four frames, Maloney was finally touched up in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Eric King kept the inning alive with an infield base hit to Baez at third. Mitch Einertson cut the Lakewood lead in half with a homer over the wall in right-center.

The long ball became a factor again in the top of seventh inning. The Blueclaws got one run back on a round tripper by Thayer, who also only had one regular season home run, who took Sammy Gervacio deep over the left field fence.

The BlueClaws waited until the top of the eighth for their biggest inning. With the lead already well in hand, Lakewood worked against three different relievers and sent nine men to the plate. A double, one walk, a dropped third strike and three singles turned into three more runs.

Maloney threw seven complete innings and allowed just two runs on four hits. More impressive, Maloney walked nobody while setting a career high with 11 strikeouts. Mike Zagurski threw in the eighth and came back in the ninth. Zagurski faced the minimum three hitters in the final inning and secured Lakewood's win by striking out the final two batters.

The BlueClaws will face the Augusta GreenJackets, who swept the Rome Braves in the Southern Division series. Game one of the best of five series will be played on Monday, September 11 at 7:05 in Augusta. After game two, also in Augusta, the BlueClaws will return to FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood for game three on Thursday, September 14.

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