SANFORD, Fla. - The Lightning won the play-in game against the Seminole County Scorpions on Monday night and were rewarded with a spot in the semifinals versus Winter Park. The semifinals is a best-of-three series, with games one and three (if necessary) being hosted by Winter Park, and game two taking place in Leesburg. Winter Park will play all of their home playoff games at Sanford Memorial Stadium.
The Lightning, riding a ten-game winning streak, ran into the buzzsaw that is the Diamond Dawgs. The Dawgs scored in half the innings in which they went to bat, totalling eight runs in the contest.
Winter Park got off to a fast start, with three runs in the second inning. Colson Hebble doubled home Cam Meehan to put the Dawgs on the board, which was followed by a couple of RBI singles. After two innings, the Lightning trailed 3-0.
Jason Fointno added a run on an RBI groundout to the shortstop that made it a 4-0 game. Daniel Carinci followed it up with a run-scoring single and gave the Dawgs a 5-0 lead in the third inning.
The Bolts would not be held scoreless for long, as they struck for two runs in the top of the fourth. Tanner Clark (North Florida) ripped a single that drove in two runs, as Cage Cox (Valdosta State) and Edward Surinach (Embry-Riddle) came across to score. The big hit cut into the deficit, as the Bolts trailed just 5-2 after four frames.
The Dawgs got one back in the bottom of the fifth, as Hebble came through again with his second RBI double of the game. The Dawgs extended their lead to 6-2 after five. An inning later, Louis Cabrera crushed a towering home run, a two-run shot, that made the score 8-2. Cabrera’s two-run moonshot was a backbreaker for the Bolts late in the game.
The Lightning did not go quietly into the night, as they scratched across two runs in the eight in one of the oddest innings a baseball fan will ever see. Winter Park’s pitcher was called for five balks in the eighth inning alone, including three in one at-bat. Nick Lewis (Valdosta State) reached base on a leadoff walk, and went to second, then third, and then scored - all on balks. Clark later delivered his third RBI of the game, a single that scored Surinach. The odd inning cut the Dawgs’ lead to 8-4.
The back end of the Winter Park bullpen would not let the Bolts get any closer, as they went down quietly in the ninth. The Diamond Dawgs took game one by a score of 8-4.
Lightning head coach Rich Billings said that the team is going to have to show more fight in game two. “We have to realize, they’re going to be the same team tomorrow,” billings said. “Their arms tomorrow are going to be just as good as they were today. We have to be a little bit grittier tomorrow. We didn’t play terrible, but we didn’t play great either. We have to show up with a little more fight tomorrow.”
Game two will be played on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM at Pat Thomas Stadium.