An unexpected Michael Antonio power surge climaxed a 2-1 Lexington Legends win over the West Virginia Power at pitch, bark and Boogie night Thursday at Whitaker Bank Park.
Antonio entered the game with just three doubles, zero home runs and a meager .256 slugging percentage, but his power was the difference.
With the starting pitchers locked in a 1-1 duel in the bottom of the seventh, Antonio hammered Power starter Orlando Castro's offering well over the left-centerfield fence.
The no-doubt homer capped a powerful night at the plate for Antonio, who finished 2-2, adding a double that bounced high off the extended wall in right-centerfield and a walk.
"Today I was just relaxed. I have been very patient, taking walks and just looking for my pitch," Antonio said. "I just waited for a good pitch and hit it hard."
Legends starter Christian Binford held up his end of the pitching duel by putting together what he considered his best performance of the season.
He went seven innings, giving up six hits, one walk and one earned run - a solo shot by Power second baseman Dilson Herrera in the first inning.
"He got a good piece, and I had gotten behind in the count," Binford said about the home run that he thought might have tailed foul. "It was questionable."
Binford was able to change speeds and location seemingly at will, and had the West Virginia hitters off balance often, striking out six.
"I had really good command of my off-speed pitches. I didn't want them to get comfortable thinking I was throwing off-speeds for balls," Binford said. "I wanted to mix it up, and it worked out alright."
The win moves the Legends to 16-17 on the season, but 7-1 so far in the month of May. They have been paced by pitching, with four of those seven wins coming despite scoring three runs or less.
The Legends lead the South Atlantic League with a 2.88 team ERA, but are at the bottom with a .212 batting average.
"They are coming on and are just barely missing pitches," Binford said about the offense. "They are going to turn it on just any day now."
It was "Bark in the Park" night at Whitaker Bank Park, with 4,395 humans in attendance, many with their tail-waggers leading the way.
The ceremonial first pitch was tossed by former UK basketball player (and current Sacramento King) DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins. Cousins tossed a strike, and joked that he had been warming up by throwing 90-mph "change-ups" prior to taking the mound.
The Legends continue the homestand with weekend games against West Virginia Friday, Saturday and Sunday before hosting the Kannapolis Intimidators for three games Mon-Wed.
Check RoyalCurve.com and Les Johns on Twitter (@LegendsLes) for coverage of the Kannapolis series.