Andy Shea, owner of the Charleston Dirty Birds, has an Atlantic League championship to add to his resume.
Unfortunately, for the Dirty Birds at least, that championship came with the other team Shea owns, the Lexington Legends, who claimed the Atlantic League title Tuesday night in Lexington, Kentucky, with a 13-2 win over the Long Island Ducks, giving the Legends a 3-1 decision in the best-of-five championship series.
Lexington did it the way it has done all season, with the long ball. The Legends hit seven home runs — three by Courtney Hawkins — in Tuesday night’s clincher at Legends Ballpark.
Hawkins, a first-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox who never reached the major leagues, put Lexington on top to stay with a solo shot in the bottom of the first and added a three-run blast in the fourth and another solo homer in the sixth, finishing with five RBIs.
In the four championship series games, the 27-year-old Hawkins hit .412 (7 for 17) with four home runs and eight RBIs.
Denis Phipps, Ben Aklinski, Ben Revere and Roberto Baldoquin also went deep for the Legends as all but two of Lexington’s 13 runs came in on home runs.
The win went to Lexington starter Zac Westcott, who allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings.
Lexington advanced to the championship series by winning the Atlantic League’s South Division first-half title, then defeating second-half champion Charleston in three games in the best-of-three divisional playoffs.
Lexington, like the Dirty Birds, is in its first season in the Atlantic League after being contracted out of Major League Baseball’s affiliated system in 2020. Before the contraction, which cut loose 40 minor-league teams, Lexington and Charleston were members of the low-Class A South Atlantic.
Lexington won South Atlantic League championships in 2018 and 2019. With the 2020 SAL season wiped out by the pandemic, the Legends have now won league titles in their last three seasons of play.
“This is an incredible way to end what some people viewed as a turbulent time for our industry,” Shea told the Lexington Herald-Leader after Tuesday’s win. “We have overcome many obstacles as an organization, yet we have continued to excel on and off the field.
“This is our third league championship in the last three seasons, but tonight’s win is most certainly the sweetest. There has never been a team to win the Atlantic League championship in their first year. Lexington just did.”