Kendry Flores has been in Augusta’s rotation since Opening Day and has ridden the ups and downs of the season.
It’s only fitting for the starting pitcher to lead the GreenJackets on Wednesday night.
The GreenJackets clinched the South Atlantic League Southern Division second-half championship with a 13-4 win over the Lexington Legends on Wednesday night at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Flores allowed three runs over six innings, striking out three and inducing seven swinging strikes. It was another solid outing for the right-hander who has anchored the rotation. He entered with the third-lowest ERA in the league.
“It’s an honor for me,” Flores said through an interpreter. “I wasn’t nervous, because I was focusing on hitting the strike zone, keeping the ball low. There was no pressure. I just enjoyed the game like every time.”
Augusta (41-23) capped a rollercoaster ride of a regular season by rushing the field after the final out, followed with a clubhouse celebration.
“The way we’ve come together as a team in the second half, I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” third baseman Mitch Delfino said. “It’s been unbelievable.”
The GreenJackets finished five games out of first in the first half and were six back earlier in the second half after a 16-18 start after the All-Star break.
Since July 30, the GreenJackets are 25-5. It began with a six-game sweep of Charleston in early August and included winning streaks of 11 and their current seven-game streak.
“(Charleston) was a series where we had a lot to prove,” manager Mike Goff said. “To take six in a row from them, that would have made those guys’ season right there. But the fact that they kept rolling, what they did on the road, it was huge.”
As a result, the GreenJackets quickly took over the division and dominated second-place Lexington (35-30), now leading the Legends by 61/2 games. After trailing Savannah by five in the first half, they now lead the Sand Gnats by six in the overall standings.
The GreenJackets scored seven runs in the first three innings of Wednesday’s clincher. Delfino and Shawn Payne sparked the scoring with home runs in the first inning. They added five insurance runs in the sixth.
Delfino went 3 for 5 with one RBI. Turner added three hits and three RBI. Payne had two RBI.