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06/22 7:00pm vs. Winter Park Diamond Dawgs

Rainout Line: 352-234-HIT9 (4489)

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Committee effort pushes Lightning past Squeeze in season opener

Committee effort pushes Lightning past Squeeze in season opener

Photo by Bob Snow/Leesburg Lightning


WINTER GARDEN -- It only took nine innings, five pitchers and one big at bat.

The Leesburg Lightning opened their season on the road against the Winter Garden Squeeze after a 45-minute rain delay Friday night. Jarred Neal, winner of the Florida Collegiate Summer League’s Cy Young award in 2016, toed the rubber for the Squeeze for four innings and allowed the lightning to strike first when a wild pitch put plated one of two runners in scoring position.

The pitch gave Leesburg a 1-0 lead – one ­they would hold on to for five more innings.

Lightning starter Mike Ruff tossed four scoreless innings with five strikeouts before Tucker Smith took over in the fifth. The tying run was plated under Dominic Jeancola, who escaped the sixth with one run, one hit and one left on base. Ben Berggren followed.

Berggren stepped in for a third of an inning before being replaced by Tyler Parry.

“Bases were loaded,” Parry said. “I hit the first guy that I faced. I came inside on him with a fastball just a little too far in but after that I just kept pounding the strike zone.”

He struck out three and allowed only one hit in 1.2 innings.

Still down 2-1 and heading into the ninth, the Lightning needed to rally.

Alec Larue entered in the top of the inning for the Squeeze, issuing a leadoff walk to Peyton Faulkner before Alex Ray pinch-hit in the No. 2 slot and laid down a perfect bunt to follow Faulkner down the base path. Right fielder Cage Cox was walked and the Squeeze’s Nick Niarchos replaced Larue.

An RBI single by Tristen Gagan left runners on for Bubba Sangster and pinch hitter Tucker Rayburn, who both struck out.

But then, Michael Koenig stepped up to the plate.

“Doug [Teegarden] told me that [Niarchos] been throwing his fastball to the last batter but he threw it the majority of his pitches – so he told me just to hunt the fastball,” Koenig said. “He threw me a first pitch fastball and I fouled it off. I knew he was coming back with it, so I just sat on it and put a good swing on it.”

That good swing resulted in a 3 RBI double for the Lightning veteran, which secured a 5-2 lead that would eventually win the contest.

Allain closed the ninth with a three up, three down final inning.

“[The win] was kind of by committee and it’s probably going to be like that the first couple games as we get our entire pitching staff here – we’re still missing a couple guys,” Lightning head coach Rich Billings said. “It’s just to get guys out there and get them innings.”

The Lightning will host their home opener on Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. against the Squeeze at Pat Thomas Stadium in Leesburg.


Emily Shoffit (Auburn University)


Lightning 11 1 0.917 ---
Diamond Dawgs 7 7 0.500 5
Suns 7 8 0.467 5.5
River Rats 6 8 0.429 6
Squeeze 5 8 0.385 6.5
Scorpions 5 9 0.357 7


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Batting Leaders

J Cody
Name AVG
Cody 0.421
Prather 0.364
May 0.294
Weeks 0.273
J Crisostomo
Name HR
Crisostomo 1
McCleney 1
Weeks 1
Bogart 0
J Prather
Name RBI
Prather 14
Crisostomo 9
May 9
Cody 8
J Matulia
Name SB
Matulia 7
Cody 6
Brown 5
Schnurbusch 5

Pitching Leaders

D Jeancola
Name ERA
Jeancola 0.00
Caudelle 0.90
Kwiatkowski 1.59
Lunday 2.16
H Caudelle
Name W
Caudelle 1
Chavis 1
Coles 1
Davenport 1
J Shapiro
Name K
Shapiro 15
Kwiatkowski 13
Coles 12
Davenport 11
D Jeancola
Jeancola 0.69
Davenport 0.71
Shapiro 1.22
Kwiatkowski 1.24