Leandro Cespedes and Carlos Ladeuth couldn't have done much more for the Lexington Legends on Saturday night. They combined to hold Lakewood to just two hits and no runs over the first seven innings.
Unfortunately for the Legends, that wasn't enough to bring home a win.
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The Legends also didn't score, and the BlueClaws finally broke through in the eighth en route to taking a 1-0 win in front of 5,059 at Applebee's Park.
”Our pitching staff has been great the last week or so,“ third baseman Matt Cusick said. ”You can't ask for much more than that. Unfortunately, our offense isn't coming through right now.“
After retiring the first seven batters he faced in relief of Cespedes, Ladeuth (3-8) allowed consecutive hits to put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth. Ladeuth then bounced a wild pitch past catcher Jonathan Fixler, moving the runners to second and third.
With the infield drawn in to cut down the run, Lakewood's T.J. Warren bounced a grounder to shortstop Cat Everett, whose throw home skipped past Fixler to the backstop and allowed the Claws to take a 1-0 lead.
”We ran into a little trouble, and the game was decided on a contact play,“ Legends Manager Gregg Langbehn said.
Cespedes threw five innings of shutout ball, retiring 15 of the 18 batters he faced. He escaped his only mini-jam in the fourth inning, when he forced two fly outs to wiggle out of a two-out, two-on situation.
The Legends had a chance to strike first in the fifth inning after Cusick's two-out double. Craig Corrado's sharply hit single through the left side of the infield appeared to be enough to score Cusick, but Lakewood catcher Joel Naughton blocked the plate and tagged Cusick before he could score.
”I got a good jump,“ Cusick said. ”As soon as he hit I knew there was going to be a play at the plate. He did a great job blocking home plate, and the left fielder made a great throw.“
That was one of the Legends' missed opportunities on the offensive side in the series. Lexington pounded the BlueClaws for 21 hits in the final two games of the series but managed just three runs. The Legends left six on base Saturday and had another runner picked off at first base.
When they had chances to get rallies going, the Legends simply couldn't string together consecutive hits. A failed sacrifice bunt turned into a crippling double play in the fifth; back-to-back fielder's choices killed a promising seventh-inning rally.
”Give credit where credit is due,“ Cusick said. ”When pitchers get runners in scoring position, you're going to see their best stuff. When (Lakewood starter Vance) Worley was out there with runners in scoring position, he made his best pitches.
”We just have to bear down. We've got to have more quality at bats with runners in scoring position.“