Lightning Headed to Third-Straight FCSL Championship Series

Lightning Headed to Third-Straight FCSL Championship Series

LEESBURG, Fla - The Leesburg Lightning are headed to their third-straight FCSL Championship Series after defeating the Sanford River Rats, 6-3, in the deciding game three of the semi-final series. 


Trailing by a run with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third, Leesburg caught a break when Sanford’s starting pitcher would commit back-to-back balks to score a pair of runs and give Leesburg a 2-1 lead they would never lose. 


For the second straight contest, Leesburg turned their deficit into a lead and never let it out of their grasp. 


Three runs in the final four innings at the plate would help Leesburg coast to a three-run victory. Right fielder Danny Cervantes (Southeastern) helped out in the fifth with an RBI single to left field to give the Bolts a decisive 4-1 lead. 


Cervantes would add the final run in the seventh inning as he doubled, stole third base and scored on a passed ball, single-handedly manufacturing a run in a matter of pitches. 


Leesburg trailed early in the contest once again after Sanford catcher Brooks Rikeman gave the Rats a 1-0 lead on an RBI single in the second inning. Starting pitcher Amir Asghar (Bethune Cookman) responded quickly as he delivered two scoreless innings following the run in the second. Asghar would finish the day with just one run allowed through four innings. 


The Lightning middle infield duo would come up big in the sixth when shortstop Ramses Cordova (Winthrop) drove in a run on a single with the bases loaded and second baseman Gabriel Santiago (Coker) earned a sacrifice-fly to left field that scored outfielder Michael Furry (St. Johns River) from third.


Lightning head coach Rich Billings dipped into his bullpen in the fifth inning as left-hander Cameron Sereda (Tampa) earned the win, holding the Rats to just one run on three hits through the next three innings. Sereda would throw a six-pitch fifth inning, and a four-pitch seventh inning showing his incredible efficiency on the mound. 


Veteran closer Connor Gleeson (Gardner-Webb) struck out the final batter to move Leesburg along, ensuing the celebration on the field. As a third-year player with the Lightning, Gleeson is headed back to the championship series for the third consecutive season. 


“It’s an amazing feeling man. I absolutely love playing on this team and actually being a part of this group of people that turns into a family.” Gleeson said. “Being able to get to the next step is awesome.” 


Leesburg sent out their one-two punch out of the back of the bullpen with stud right-hander Tyler Van Dyke (Seminole St) throwing a perfect eighth inning and Gleeson allowing a first pitch home run but retiring the next three batters to seal the victory. 


“I’ve been working on my pitches, especially coming in here and being able to utilize them and get them to do what they’re supposed to do in the right counts,” Gleeson said. “It helps my command which is awesome.”


In repeat fashion, the Lightning will face their championship opponent from 2021, the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs. The Dawgs swept the Seminole County Snappers in two games on the other side of the playoff bracket.


Game one with Winter Park will take place at Sanford Memorial Stadium on Friday night. First pitch is set for 6:30 pm ET. 

Tom Cavanaugh, (Michigan State University)


Diamond Dawgs 26 11 0.703 ---
Lightning 26 13 0.667 1
River Rats 17 16 0.515 7
Snappers 14 20 0.412 10.5
Squeeze 13 20 0.394 11
Suns 8 24 0.250 15.5


Batting Leaders

N Best
Name AVG
Best 0.328
Runnels 0.295
Santiago 0.284
Brinling 0.280
J Runnels
Name HR
Runnels 4
Best 2
Brinling 1
Dinges 1
N Best
Name RBI
Best 25
Dinges 19
Runnels 19
Brinling 17
G Santiago
Name SB
Santiago 31
Furry 24
Brinling 22
Best 18

Pitching Leaders

L Perry
Name ERA
Perry 3.48
Bruns 5.45
J Gay
Name W
Gay 6
Gleeson 3
Perry 3
Sereda 3
T Van Dyke
Name K
Van Dyke 41
Sereda 32
Perry 31
Gleeson 27
T Van Dyke
Van Dyke 0.84
Miller 0.86
Perry 0.95
Sereda 1.04