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Lakewood falls as Lexington takes Sally League title

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ- Only one team can with the last game and unfortunately it wasn't the home club at FirstEnergy Park on Friday night as the Lexington Legends (Royals affiliate) nabbed a 2-1 victory and, in the process, their second Class A South Altantic League championship.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, the Lakewood BlueClaws failed to plate a run and fell in the best-of-five series, three games to one.

Lakewood's lone run came in the 6th inning on a Jhailyn Ortiz RBI single.  Manager Marty Malloy waved another runner home that was gunned down at the plate.

Lexington took the lead back in the top of the 9th on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Cristian Perez, who doubled in the Legend's first run in the 5th.  The sac fly brought home left fielder Brewer Hicklen, who beat a close play at the plate.

"We had two plays at the plate, one was our guy being out and the other was their guy being safe and that was the difference in the game," said Lakewood manager Marty Malloy.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard, who threw a no-hitter on this same field one week prior, to clinch the BlueClaws' trip to the finals, lasted just five innings in the championship round.  According to Malloy, the talented right-hander tweaked his back and his removal from the game was a precautionary measure.  The 22-year-old is not expected to have any lasting symptoms.

Disappointment sat heavy with the team following the loss, but Malloy was already reflecting on all the positivity that was the 2018 BlueClaws season.

"I feel for that group 'cause I know what they've given every day.  They didn't just give it one day.  They gave for 145, so you know, nobody's every satisfied finishing in second place," Malloy said.  "A lot of people didn't think we'd have the opportunity to play for the championship, but that whole group out in the locker room, they believed in each other since day one.  I'm proud of them.  I'm proud of every one of them.  I'm proud of my staff.  What a good season.  It stinks that it had to come down to a loss, especially being here at this ballpark with these fans that supported us the way they have.  What a year."

Indeed.

Bonus notes: 

Malloy, who is wrapping up his second season with Lakewood, said he is contractually committed to returning to the Phillies organization next year.  Though, he does not know where that assignment will be yet.

Lakewood standout Jake Scheiner, who led the team in batting average with a .296 and played third base, first base and left field this season, will add another position to his repertoire.  The 23-year-old righty batting All-Star will head to the Phillies' fall instructional league and dabble behind the plate to see how it goes.  The enhanced versatility can only help the youngster.

James McArthur threw three scoreless frames in relief for Lakewood in game four.  His tally of consecutive scoreless innings dating back to his time with short-season Class A Williamsport is at 33 2/3.  The 21-year-old righty was this year's 12th round Phillies draft selection. 

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