LEESBURG, Fla. -- The Lightning (11-13) played game three of its series with the Seminole County Scorpions (4-19) at Pat Thomas Stadium on Wednesday night.
The game was a pitcher’s duel, with both offenses struggling to muster runs and each pitching staff cruising through the respective lineups.
The Lightning starting pitcher, Dylan Kelley (South Florida State) was lights out on the mound. He cruised through five innings, allowing just five hits and one run while striking out seven.
After the game, Kelley said he just needed to rely on his stuff and his teammates. “I just had to trust my pitches and trust my defense behind me and keep the offense in the game,” Kelley said. “My fastball was really working tonight. I was able to disguise my changeup and curveball and locate all three pitches well tonight.”
The lone Scorpions run scored off Kelley came on a fielder’s choice in the fifth inning, that tied the game at 1-1 after the Lightning got on the board with a run on a wild pitch.
The sixth inning was significant for the Bolts, as they took a three-run lead in the frame. Wyatt Elbe (Maryville) scored on a wild pitch to put the Lightning up 2-1. An RBI walk from Max Law (Embry-Riddle) and a run on a fielder’s choice gave Leesburg a 4-1 lead after six.
The Scorpions did not go away lightly, as they pulled within a run in the sixth inning. A wild pitch and an RBI single from Topher Grant (Lenoir-Rhyne).
Seminole County knotted it up at 4-4 on a sacrifice fly in the seventh, but stranded the go-ahead run on third base when Lightning pitcher Edward Surinach (Embry-Riddle) recorded a clutch strikeout that ended the inning.
The fireworks came a day early in the bottom of the eighth inning. Cage Cox (Valdosta State) belted a three-run, go-ahead home run, his fifth of the year, that pushed the Lightning out to a 7-4 lead.
Cox explained that he wasn’t swinging for the fences, but just trying to help his team. “My mindset was to just find a good pitch and hit it hard,” Cox explained. “I was trying to drive something back up the middle. I just wanted to get the guy in from third, but the pitcher left the ball inside, and I did what I did.” Cox is participating in the Home Run Derby as a part of the 2019 FCSL All-Star Game festivities in Sanford on Sunday. When asked if he was eyeing a win in the derby, Cox laughed it off. “There’s a lot of stiff competition,” Cox said with a smile. “I’m going to do my best and it should be a lot of fun.”
Following Cox’s blast, Tate Mathis (North Alabama) reached on an error, then stole third base and advanced home on yet another error to add a run. The Lightning handed the ball to Parker Pillsbury (Chipola) to protect an 8-4 lead in the ninth.
Pillsbury worked a 1-2-3 inning and the Lightning came away with the 8-4 victory.
Lightning manager Rich Billings was happy to see his team play a relatively well-rounded game. “We weren’t really great on offense, but we were good on the mound and we were good defensively,” Billings said. “We were good on offense when we needed to be. We got some clutch hits.”
The Lightning will face the Sanford River Rats on July 4 at 5:30 PM for the wildly popular Independence Day game. Fireworks will immediately follow the conclusion of the game. You will not want to miss it!