The Leesburg Lightning (1-2) returned to action Thursday night against the Sanford River Rats (3-2) following two consecutive rained out games. But Sanford Memorial Stadium wouldn’t house the Bolts hopes of obtaining their second win of the season as they dropped the first game of their series with Sanford 6-3.
Sanford took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first and Leesburg struggled with an array of first pitch outs from River Rats starter Frank Follaco for the first five innings.
Tyler Parry started on the mound for the Lightning and tossed four innings allowing just one run and two strikeouts. Josh Wilson took over for Parry in the fifth, going 2.1 innings with four strikeouts to hold the River Rats to only one run.
“An error in the first inning kind of got [Parry] and led to a run but he did a great job bouncing back from that,” Lightning head coach Rich Billings said. “He was in the zone, he gave us some chances, kept us close and I thought he did everything he could to keep us in the ball game.”
Peyton Faulkner tied the contest at one with a solo homerun over the right field fence in the sixth and the Lightning defense continued to work with flawless innings. Stellar pitching from Wilson, Berggren and Sutton kept the Rats at bay.
The bullpen tallied nine strikeouts on the night and all was calm until the bottom of the eighth.
A walk, error and a single loaded the bases for Sanford with no outs. Alejandro Martinez had a hard hit single up the middle that scored two and advanced Cody Oerther to third. A fly out gave Leesburg their first out of the bottom of the inning but a long ball over the right field fence would clear the bases make it a 6-1 lead for the River Rats.
Veteran Drew Peden closed out the eighth with a strikeout and the Lightning attempted a rally in the ninth with a lead off solo homerun from Tucker Rayburn. Kevin Lambert followed with a double and reached third on a Bubba Sangster sacrifice and scored on a wild pitch for a 6-3 game but that’s all that Leesburg would be able to manage.
“It’s one run at a time, station to station baseball,” Billings said. “You really have to make sure at that point you focus on the little things that help you climb back into a ball game and I thought our guys did a good job at competing and battling back and they gave us a shot in the ninth inning.”
The Lightning host Sanford on Friday, June 9 for game two of the series at Pat Thomas Stadium at 7 p.m. Gates open at 4 p.m. and admission is free.
Emily Shoffit (Auburn University)
Photo by Bob Snow/Leesburg Lightning