THE VILLAGES, Fla - The Leesburg Lightning returned to their winning ways Thursday afternoon with a 6-2 victory over the Deland Suns at The Villages High School.
Leesburg took game one of the series, improving to 7-5 while extending the Suns’ winless streak to nine games.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Leesburg would surrender a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning with back-to-back sacrifice flies.
The go-ahead hit came from Lightning outfielder Marco Dinges (Tallahassee CC) in the third inning as he lined a ball into the left center gap to break a 2-2 tie. Offensive production started early for the Bolts as they put together six runs on 10 hits.
Starting left-hand pitcher Matt Dadlani (Hillsborough CC) tossed the first two innings, allowing two runs on no hits with one strikeout. In the third, a call to the bullpen was made and right-hander Layton Perry (Jacksonville U) came out firing.
Perry delivered four scoreless frames, allowing just two hits and two punchouts. He picked up his second win of the season, improving his earned run average to 2.25.
“I just had to focus on pounding the (strike) zone,” Perry said. “Trying to get ahead and making them beat me with their bats.”
The big day offensively came from catcher Travis Stapleton (Polk St.). He finished the day 3 for 4, two runs scored and his fourth double of the year.
“Biggest thing for me is staying aggressive,” Stapleton said. “If I see it in the zone, I'm putting my best swing on it and good things happen.”
Three other Lightning batters had multi-hit games; Gabe Esquivel (North Florida), Ian Thornton (Lake Sumter), Michael Furry (Troy). Esquivel drove in the opening run of the ballgame with an RBI single in the first. He finished with two hits. Leesburg would score once more in the first on a fielder’s choice from third baseman Quinn Petty (North Alabama).
Thornton finished 2 for 4 with a double and Furry had two hits, driving in a run in the fourth inning to extend the Leesburg lead to 4-2.
Later in the sixth, Leesburg would add two more on a botched pickoff move from Deland that would score Thornton from third, followed by an RBI groundout from second baseman Gabe Santiago (Newberry).
Stapleton spoke of the team's success in its fourth double-digit hit victory.
“The difference was our approach, I thought we were really locked in,” Stapleton said. “We shortened our swings a little bit, moved runners over and drove guys in, that’s how you win.”
The ensuing arms for Leesburg were just as good as Casey Daiss (Pasco Hernando St.) hurled the seventh and eighth innings, striking out four, without allowing a hit. Deland was only able to scrape together three base knocks in the loss.
Fan-favorite and closer Connor Gleeson (Gardner-Webb) did his job in the ninth, as he struck out one and gave up one hit. In five single-inning appearances, Gleeson has struck out nine batters, allowing just two hits and zero runs for a 0.00 ERA.
The Lightning will seek their second series win on Friday night at Pat Thomas Stadium - Buddy Lowe Field for game two with the Deland Suns. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Tom Cavanaugh (Michigan State University)