‘What a year!’ Royals’ Class A team wins South Atlantic League championship

If not for one bad inning, the Lexington Legends would have run the table in the postseason.

The Legends, who are a Class A affiliate of the Royals, beat Lakewood, N.J., 2-1 on Friday in a tense fourth game of the South Atlantic League championship series. Lexington won the best-of-five series 3-1.

“It’s really nice for these young players,” Legends manager Scott Thorman told “They really came together down the stretch, and they didn’t panic tonight. It was something new every night for these kids. These guys really put together a nice series and got all the big hits when we needed them.”

That was the case Friday night.

The score was 1-1 heading when outfielder Brewer Hicklen opened the ninth inning with a walk. Hicklen moved to third on Manny Olioque’s single and scored on Cristian Perez’s sacrifice fly on an 0-2 pitch.

Lakewood, the Phillies’ affiliate, loaded the bases with two outs against Lexington’s Tad Ratliff. However, Jose Antequera grounded to Legends third baseman Carlos Diaz, who stepped on the bag and ended the game.

Lexington starter J.C. Loney pitched five shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two.

The Legends won the last three games of the series after blowing a five-run lead in the ninth inning of the opener and losing in 11 innings. Lexington swept its best-of-three semifinal series 2-0.

First baseman Nick Pratto, who was the Royals’ first-round draft pick in 2017, tweeted: “WHAT A YEAR! Couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys... perfect ending to an outstanding season”

Catcher MJ Melendez shared an Instagram post with the league trophy and wrote: “It’s just something about winning with my brothers!!! CHAMPIONS!!! #LexGo”

The sound is off on this video from, but here is the final out of the series: