Greenville, SC - The Greenville Drive made a valiant comeback attempt in the late innings on Friday night in front of 6,081 fans at Fluor Field, but fell just short in a 5-4 loss to the Lexington Legends.
With the loss, the Drive (36-31, 61-75) were eliminated from South Atlantic League playoff contention, and after Rome defeated Asheville on Friday night as well, the Legends (39-26, 76-57) clinched the second half Southern Division championship.
Trailing 5-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Drive offense began to show signs of life. After a leadoff single by Garrett Benge and a walk by Pedro Castellanos, Tanner Nishioka greeted Legends reliever Janser Lara with a three-run home run to left-center field. The long ball was his ninth of the season and it trimmed the Legends lead to 5-4.
The Drive once again threatened in the ninth after a walk by Nishioka and a single by Jordan Wren with one out. After a failed pickoff attempt pushed the runners to second and third, Tad Ratliff recorded a strikeout and a groundout to end the game and record his 10th save.
Kervin Suarez got the Drive out to a 1-0 lead with a solo homer to the Green Monster seats leading off the bottom of the first, but from there, Lexington starter Marcelo Martinez (1-0) took control.
In his South Atlantic League debut, Martinez struck out nine Drive hitters over six-plus innings while allowing only four hits and three runs. He notched four 1-2-3 innings on the night.
Lexington took the lead against Angel Padron in the third. Kyle Isbel led off with a double, and he came in to score on a pair of wild pitches to tie the game. After a single by Nick Pratto, Brewer Hicklen launched a two-run homer off the building in left-center to put the Legends up 3-1.
RBI singles from Isbel in the sixth and Hicklen in the seventh tacked on some necessary insurance for Lexington.
Nishioka drove home three runs for Greenville, while Jarren Duran logged a pair of hits.
The teams will continue their series on Saturday night at Fluor Field at 7:05. A pair of left-handers will take the mound, as Enmanuel De Jesus (8-5, 3.74) starts for the Drive against Lexington's J.C. Cloney (3-1, 2.03).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.