Winter Park, FL - 11. That's the number of runners that the Leesburg Lightning left on base in their Game 2 loss to the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs on Thursday night. Only two runs crossed the plate for the visiting Lightning despite putting up 12 hits as they lost to the fourth-seeded Diamond Dawgs, 3-2.
Winter Park got all three of their runs in separate innings, starting with a solo home run by center fielder Tyler Osik (UCF) in the bottom of the first off of Lightning starter Ethan Chavis (NC A&T).
Chandler Robertson (UCF) scored on an RBI groundout in the fourth inning and again in the sixth inning on a questionable defensive interference call. Chavis left the game after five innings with three runs allowed on three hits and three walks. Those three hits, a home run and two singles, turned out to be the only hits for Winter Park as they were out-hit by the Lightning, 12-3.
After the game, Lightning Head Coach Rich Billings said that his team's discipline at the plate was lacking and that a similar performance tomorrow could bounce them from the playoffs. "Our plate discipline just isn't very good when we get runners in scoring position. They outplayed us with runners on base, I don't think they outplayed us overall, but they outplayed us with runners on base," a disappointed Coach Billings said after the game. "They made some nice plays to get themselves out of innings. We hit some balls right at guys and they knew where our guys were going to hit it and they were just better than us."
Leesburg got both of their runs in the top of the seventh after a throwing error by Dawgs third baseman Abraham Sequera (North Florida) scored Jay Prather (North Florida) and allowed Wes Weeks (North Florida) to advance to third base. Two batters later, Frank Niemann (Tulane) drove in Weeks with a single to center field to cut the deficit to one run. Leesburg had runners in scoring positions in six of nine innings, but failed to score five times, something that had not been indicative of their high-octane offense all regular season.
William Walter (Florida A&M), Dominic Jeancola (Embry-Riddle), D'Andre Knight (Marshall), and Louis Davenport (Pensacola State) all turned in scoreless outings out of the Lightning bullpen, but three runs proved to be the magic number for Winter Park, who staved off elimination for at least one more night.
"Tonight was our giveaway game. We didn't have to win tonight," said Coach Billings, whose team now faces a do or die scenario on Friday night. "Would we have liked to (win)? Absolutely. Did we try to? Yes, definitely, but we didn't have to. Tomorrow is a game that we have to win. If there was a night that we were going to be bad, tonight would've been the night to do it, rather than tomorrow night."
The Lightning and Diamond Dawgs will face off in a decisive Game 3 on Friday night in Leesburg at 7:00 p.m. The loser will see their season end, while the winner will advance to the Florida League championship to face the DeLand Suns, who eliminated the Sanford River Rats with a 5-1 win on Thursday night to sweep their semifinal series.
Matt Holzapfel (Elon University)