Lakewood Clinches First-Half Division Title

For the first time in franchise history, the Lakewood BlueClaws have captured the first half division title. The clinching gives them their second playoff appearance in the South Atlantic League.

By virtue of their 8-3 victory Thursday night against the Hagerstown Suns, the Lakewood BlueClaws have clinched the championship in the South Atlantic League Northern Division for the first half of the season. The winner of each half of the season also earns a birth into the 2009 SAL playoffs. With a record of 40-25, the BlueClaws can not be passed in the standings with four games to play.

This is the first time the BlueClaws (40-25) have won the championship in the first half of the season, and it clinches their second trip to the playoffs in team history. In 2006 the BlueClaws had the best record in the second half of the year before winning the SAL title.

The 2009 South Atlantic League playoffs will take place shortly after the second half of the season, with the BlueClaws owning home field advantage in the opening series.

The BlueClaws needed a win or a loss by both the Delmarva Shorebirds and the Kannapolis Intimidators to clinch the title, and they took the lead in the very first inning.

In the first, Anthony Gose reached on an error before stealing second base and scoring on a single by Steve Susdof to make the game 1-0.

The lead then went to three in the second as Travis Mattair led the inning off with a walk before Jeremy Hamilton hit his second home run of the season over the wall in right field to make it 3-0. The BlueClaws then scored another run in the inning as Zach Collier reached on an error, advanced to third on a hit-and run with Troy Hanzawa at the plate and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Harold Garcia.

The Suns (29-33) then countered with two runs of their own in the third as they led the inning off with a walk and a single before an error by Mattair allowed a run to score and runners to advance. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

The BlueClaws got a run back next inning as the tenth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Drew Storen replaced starter Marcos Frias (4-2) and allowed a solo home run to Travis d'Arnaud, the first batter he faced in his professional career. However the lead was back to two as the Suns tallied for one in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-3.

The BlueClaws extended their lead to three in the eighth as Susdorf singled in Gose for the second time in the game. Gose then added an RBI of his own, scoring Hamilton to make it 7-3 in the ninth. Later in the inning, Hanzawa scored on an error.

The win went to Jesus Sanchez (3-4), who went seven innings and allowed five hits and just one earned run. The seven innings is the longest outing of the season for Sanchez. He was relieved by Justin De Fratus in the eighth, and he went the final two innings scoreless.

The BlueClaws will return home for their final four games of the first half as the first half champions will face the Lake County Captains on tonight at 7:05. The BlueClaws will use starter Jon Velasquez, the league leader in wins, and he will be opposed by Danny Salazar (1-3).

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