Matt Maloney struck out a season-high 11 over seven innings Friday as the Lakewood BlueClaws beat the Lexington Legends, 8-2, to sweep the South Atlantic League Northern Division Finals.
The BlueClaws lost all four games in Lexington during the season, but Maloney (1-0) limited the Legends to two runs on four hits. He retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced and did not issue a walk.
"Basically, it came down to locating the fastball well," Maloney said. "It was that and being able to bounce some changeups in the dirt. I knew that if I held them to two or three runs that we'd have a pretty good chance in winning."
Lakewood's top three starters -- Maloney, Josh Outman and Carlos Carrasco -- ranked first, second and third, respectively, in the SAL in strikeouts and were among the top five in ERA. Maloney led the league with 16 wins and was second with a 2.03 ERA.
While the focus is on the pitching staff, Maloney noted the offense has done its part.
"The whole staff has been dominating this year, but our hitting has been pretty good during the second half," the 22-year-old left-hander said. "Guys like (Jeremy) Slayden and (Mike) Spidale have been great for us at driving in runs, especially when we really needed them. They've just been great lately."
Spidale came through in the third when he lofted a sacrifice fly to center field that plated Welinson Baez for a 1-0 lead. Spidale, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, slugged a solo homer with two outs in the fifth to make it 4-0. Leadoff batter Matt Thayer also was 2-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored.
The Legends scored their runs in the fifth. With two outs, Eric King beat out an infield single and Mitch Einertson followed with a drive over the fence in left-center field. Pedro Espinoza also singled, but Maloney struck out Joshua Flores and retired the next six batters before Michael Zagurski finished up.
Zagurski pitched two perfect innings, striking out three, as the Blue Claws held the Legends to three runs and 10 hits in sweeping the best-of-3 series.
Lexington starter Brian Bogusevic (0-1) gave up four runs -- two earned -- on six hits and three walks while striking out two in five innings.
Lakewood faces the Augusta GreenJackets in the best-of-5 SAL Championship Series, beginning Monday in Augusta.
Michael Echan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.