Last season, the Lexington Legends brought home the second South Atlantic League championship in franchise history. On Thursday night, the team’s title defense got off to an exciting start despite a disappointing result.
The Legends rallied to force extra innings before falling to the Delmarva Shorebirds, 6-5, in their season opener in front of an announced crowd of 6,751 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Lexington had a chance for a walk-off win with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 10th inning but newcomer Juan Carlos Negret, the team’s youngest player at 19 years old, struck out swinging.
Despite the loss, the new-look Legends showed off some mettle for first-year manager Brooks Conrad. Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, a familiar face helped get the home team back in the game. Catcher Chase Vallot, who played for the Legends in 2015 and 2016 before being promoted, smacked a line-drive triple to center field to score Michael Gigliotti. Vallot came home on Reed Rohlman’s single to tie the game.
Delmarva went ahead 6-4 on Jean Carlos Encarnacion’s two-run homer in the top of the 10th. Nathan Eaton got the Legends within a run with an RBI double in the bottom half before Delmarva’s Timothy Naughton struck out Negret to seal the win.
Vallot reached base three times on the night with a pair of hits and a walk. Batting from the leadoff spot, Gigliotti went 2-for-5 with an RBI and scored a run. Gigliotti is one of six players who return to the Legends from last year’s squad. The 23-year-old center fielder played in just six games last season before tearing an ACL.
Also returning from last year’s team is Charlie Neuweiler, who drew the start on Thursday and went five innings, allowing three hits and two earned runs while striking out four. Relievers Josh Dye and Kyle Hinton both struck out five batters. Hinton took the loss.
Delmarva Shorebirds vs. Lexington Legends
When: Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark