The Lexington Legends won their second South Atlantic League championship in franchise history last season, and on Sunday they took a big step toward defending the title.
The Legends piled up 13 hits on their way to a 10-1 rout of the Columbia Fireflies in South Carolina, closing out the first half of the season with their third straight win and clinching a spot in the playoffs by finishing atop the Southern Division standings. The Legends will face the Southern Division’s second-half winner in the first round of the SAL playoffs. Should the Legends also win the second-half race, they’ll face the team with the next best overall record.
The hot finish was crucial. With Sunday’s win, the Legends improved to 37-32 on the year and finished a half-game ahead of the Augusta GreenJackets. Legends center fielder Michael Gigliotti keyed the offense against Columbia, going 3-for-5 with a triple and four RBI as he extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Five other Legends had multi-hit games against the Fireflies, including first baseman Reed Rohlman, who also had a triple. Shortstop Jeison Guzman went 2-for-4 with two RBI.
Columbia pitcher Woods Richardson held Lexington scoreless through four innings before the Legends chased him from the game with a three-run fifth inning. They put up three more runs in the sixth and scored two runs apiece in the eight and ninth innings.
Legends starter Jon Heasley kept Columbia’s bats at bay, allowing three hits and one run while striking out seven over six innings. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound 22-year-old Texas native improved to 6-3 on the year and lowered his ERA to 2.64. Austin Lambright and Bryce Hensley combined to close out the final three innings, allowing just one more Columbia hit.
Heasley and Gigliotti are among five Legends players on the SAL Southern Division All-Star team, which will face the Northern Division All-Stars on Tuesday in Charleston, W. Va. Catcher Chase Vallot is also on the Southern Division roster, along with pitchers Jonathan Bowlan and Austin Cox. Legends first-year manager Brooks Conrad will manage the Southern Division team and Legends hitting coach Jesus Azuaje will serve in that role for the Southern Division squad.
7:35 p.m. Tuesday: South Atlantic League All-Star Game in Charleston, W.Va.
7:05 p.m. Thursday: Greenville Drive at Lexington Legends