SANFORD – A rubber match battle between the Leesburg Lightning (2-3) and the Sanford River Rats (4-3) on Saturday night ended in favor of the home team with a walk off sacrifice fly from Cody Oerther for a 5-4 Rats win.
The Lightning made their mark early in the ball game when Peyton Faulkner touched home thanks to a double from Cage Cox in the top of the first. Sanford responded in the bottom of the inning thanks to a double steal from two errors by Austin Mauer and Faulkner for a 1-1 contest.
A double from Alex Ray scored Camden Williamson in the top of the second for a 2-1 Lightning lead. The runs would continue to come in for Leesburg in the third when a bases loaded RBI walk brought in Cox and a single from Williamson scored Tristen Gagan to make it 4-1 Lightning.
Bolts starter Michael Johnson tossed four innings with four strikeouts and three hits before being replaced by Danny Pierce.
“Michael gave us a really good start,” Lightning head coach Rich Billings said. “Didn’t play good defense in the first inning and gave up a free run there. I thought [Johnson] settled in, competed and gave us what he had.”
Bubba Sangster earned his first hit of the season in the fifth with a double off the center field wall but was tagged out attempting to take an extra base at third.
Pierce faced four batters and recorded a strikeout when Bailey Sutton entered. Two Rats reached base in the seventh and scored on Sutton’s watch before Ben Berggren replaced the sophomore. Another run would score on a fielder’s choice and the seventh would close with the game tied at four.
Dominic Jeancola saw his longest outing of the season with three solid innings of work, no walks and three strikeouts through 14 batters.
“[Jeancola] really battled tonight but I think he just ran out of gas,” Billings said. “It happens. You get to the end of the week and sometimes you’re running short on arms and you have to go with the guys that you have.”
Extra innings ensued and the River Rats would get the win with a bases loaded, no out sac fly to center field for the 5-4 victory to take the series from Leesburg.
The Lightning return to action on Monday, June 12 when they travel Southeast to take on the Altamonte Springs Scorpions at 7 p.m.
Emily Shoffit (Auburn University)