LEESBURG, Fla - The Leesburg Lightning win a hard-fought battle with the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs, 4-1, on Tuesday night at Pat Thomas Stadium. They have won four of their last five contests, improving to 10-6 on the year.
The deciding swing came in the very first inning for Leesburg as catcher Jakob Runnels belted a two-run double into the left center gap with the bases loaded to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. The Bolts would add two more in the inning and neither team would score for the reminder of the ballgame.
The starting nod for the Lightning went to left-hander Brandon Haston (Georgia St) and he was great in his outing. After the first inning run, Haston delivered two shutout innings, allowing just one run on six hits with two strikeouts in his three innings.
Head coach Rich Billings gave his thoughts on his team’s performance.
“There were a lot of good things that happened today. I thought all of our pitchers were just really tough on the mound,” Billings said. “I would’ve liked to see us score a couple more later in the game, we had chances but weren’t able to get that big hit like we did in the first.”
Winter Park took the early lead with an RBI single from outfielder Blake DeLamielluere (Jacksonville) in the top of the first. The Dawgs bats would go quiet the rest of the game, failing to generate any offense
After the Runnels double, Leesburg infielder Noah Best (Birmingham Southern) picked up his 10th RBI of the season with a ground ball to shortstop that scored Quinn Petty (North Alabama) from third base. First baseman Ian Thornton would join the hit parade with an RBI single to center field to give the Lightning a three-run cushion.
Billings looked back on the overall team performance and a few clutch swings from some big Lightning bats.
“Jakob Runnels came through really big in the first with a double to score a couple runs, Ian Thornton had a big two-out hit to drive one in,” Billings said” We had some things that went our way and I think the guys played really well tonight.”
Leesburg’s bullpen was flawless as they held Winter Park to just one hit in the final six innings. Winning pitcher Justin Gay (Pasco Hernando St) continued his dominance on the mound, entering first out of the bullpen. He dealt three innings, allowing one hit and striking out a pair. Gay moves to 4-0 on the year, holding the the best record in the Florida League.
The best pitching performance of the night came from crafty lefty Cameron Sereda (Tampa) in the set-up role. Tossing the seventh and eighth innings, Sereda struck out five of the nine total batters he faced, deflating the Dawgs offense.
“That guy is gold, He’s just so dependable because you know exactly what you're going to get out of him,” Billings said about Sereda. “Tonight, he was tough because he was just a bulldog and made some really big pitches to get some huge strikeouts and a couple quick, easy outs.”
Veteran closer Connor Gleeson (Gardner Webb) earned his third save of the season as he shut the door in the ninth inning with two punchouts. He still is yet to allow a run this season and has 11 strikeouts and just one walk through six total innings.
The Lightning will be back in action on Thursday night at West Orange High School for a three-game road series with the Winter Garden Squeeze. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. ET>
Tom Cavanaugh, (Michigan State University)