Leesburg, FL – Four Lightning pitchers combined to give up only one run through 14 innings and the first place Leesburg Lightning (18-5) downed the Seminole County Scorpions (9-14) by scores of 7-0 and 3-1.
Starting pitcher Ronny Hinton (South Florida State College) struck out seven in the first complete game of the season from any Leesburg starting pitcher and the Lightning took game one easily, 7-0. The Scorpions managed five hits but were unable to push a single runner across the plate as the Lightning secured only their second shutout win of the summer.
The first game started as a continuation of a game from June 26th at Seminole County that only made it three outs before being suspended due to rain. The Scorpions came to bat in the bottom of the first inning acting as the home team even though the game was played at Pat Thomas Stadium.
The Lightning struck first when they added two runs in the top of the second inning. Tanner May (North Florida) and Tucker Rayburn (Florida A&M) led-off the frame with back-to-back singles, and a Walker McCleney (Alabama) infield single loaded the bases one out later. Florida League All-Star Tanner Clark (North Florida) drove in one run with a bloop single to center field, and a bases-loaded walk to Wes Weeks (North Florida) made it 2-0 Leesburg.
Walker McCleney’s second home run of the season doubled Leesburg’s lead in the top of the fourth inning. With Jose Crisostomo (Miami Dade) standing on second via a double one at-bat earlier, McCleney lifted a high fly ball to right field that just kept carrying and didn’t stop until it was over the wall in right field.
The Lightning added one more run in the fifth and two in the seventh to back up a dominant complete game from Ronny Hinton to take game one by a score of 7-0.
Seminole County finally got on the board for the first time all night when Paxton Rigby (Georgia Tech) walked and took second on a passed ball in the second inning. Two wild pitches from Lightning starter Robert Kwiatkowski (Spartanburg Methodist) moved Rigby to third and then eventually across home plate, giving the Scorps their first lead.
That lead only lasted four outs thanks to Sean Mootrey’s (Georgia Gwinnett) first home run of the year, which came in the bottom of the same frame. With Jose Crisostomo on second thanks to a lead-off double, Mootrey smoked the ball over the left field wall on a pitch from Seminole starter Kyle Brana (Undecided) to put Leesburg back on top, 2-1.
Both McCleney in game one and Mootrey in game two came through in a big way for the Lightning despite not having the best numbers to show for their huge production all season. “Mootrey especially was due for a big night and I’m glad he showed up. Walker as well, he’s been banged up a bit lately but he’s starting to catch a little fire and swing the bat well,” Lightning head coach Rich Billings said. “It was nice to get production from both of those guys.”
Kwiatkowski, who will be the starting pitcher for the West All-Stars this weekend in Sanford, was able to keep the Scorpions bats relatively quiet after giving up the one run in the second. He finished with one run (unearned) allowed on three hits and five strikeouts in five innings of work before Kevin Barham (Georgia Highlands) came in in relief in the top of the sixth.
After Barham struggled in a limited appearance, officially going 0+ innings and walking two batters, Pedro Reyes-Ruiz (Miami Dade) came in and bailed the home side out big time. With the bases loaded and no outs, Reyes got back-to-back Seminole County batters to strike out swinging before getting Pablo Cedeno (Undecided) to fly out to right field. Reyes’ heroics preserved a 2-1 lead in what ended up being one of Leesburg’s most hard-fought games all season.
After the game, Coach Billings lauded Reyes and his consistent excellence at situational pitching throughout the first half of the season. “It was especially big tonight coming off of the performance that he had last time out against the Rats. We brought him in in that extra inning game with a runner on second and he struggled a little bit,” said Billings, whose confidence in his closer never wavered despite his occasional struggles. “Tonight, he was phenomenal. I definitely thought that was huge and big for his confidence and the confidence of our team as well. We definitely needed that.”
Sean Mootrey came in clutch in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single to score Tanner May and add some much-needed insurance to the Lightning lead. Reyes, working with a now 3-1 lead, got two out of three Scorpions batters to strike out in the top of the seventh to end the game, which was only slated to be seven innings due to league doubleheader regulations.
Leesburg is back in action on Friday night at home against the Winter Garden Squeeze.
Matt Holzapfel (Elon University)