LEESBURG, Fla. -- The Leesburg Lightning (21-17) and the Seminole County Scorpions (8-30) returned to Pat Thomas Stadium for a double header on the final day of the regular season.
The Lightning entered the game 1.5 games back of the Sanford River Rats, as the Rats resided in the third place spot in the standings. Sanford defeated Winter Park to prevent the Bolts from overtaking them in the standings.
The Lightning were the away team in game one, so they went to the plate first. The leadoff man, Parker Pillsbury (Chipola), was not going to waste any time making his mark on game one. He cranked his fifth homer on the first pitch of the game to give the Lightning and early 1-0 lead.
Pillsbury added to his RBI total in the second with a single to center that scored Pablo Cedeno (UCF). After Pillsbury swiped second Tate Mathis (North Alabama) drove in Tucker Horsley (North Florida) and Pillsbury with a two-RBI single. After two, the Lightning led 4-0.
That score would hold until the seventh due to Lightning starting pitcher, Peyton Winebarger’s (North Carolina A&T), dominance on the mound. In six innings of work, Winebarger allowed zero runs, two hits, three walks and struck out eight. Due to Winebarger’s brilliance, the Scorpions entered the seventh and final inning trailing 4-0.
A two-run home run from Anthony George (Jacksonville) ended the shutout, but the Scorpions could not muster anything else.
The Lightning escaped with the 4-2 win, their eighth consecutive win. The franchise record for a winning streak is 14 games, which was done in 2018.
After a lengthy delay, the Lightning and Scorpions began game two at 8:40 PM.
The Scorpions struck first in the top of the third on a bases-loaded, two-out single from Fausto Lopez (Middle Tennessee State) that put the Scorpions up 2-0.
In the fourth, the Lightning offense exploded for eight runs. With runners on first and second, Jarrett Backus (King College) laid down a perfect bunt. The third baseman fielded the ball cleanly but his throw to first hit Backus in the back and all runners were safe, while Cage Cox (Valdosta State) was able to score and make it 2-1 Scorpions. After a Max Law (Embry-Riddle) RBI walk tied it at 2-2, Donte Wade (North Carolina A&T) singled home Backus and Clark and gave the Bolts a 4-2 lead. A few batters later, Nick Lewis (Valdosta State) brought Law and Wade home with a two-run double and pushed the Lightning lead out to 6-2. The Bolts got their last two runs of the inning when a wild pitch allowed Pillsbury to score from third. The catcher recovered the ball and tried to nab Pillsbury at the plate, but the ball got away, allowing Lewis to score all the way from second. After a long fourth inning, the Lightning held an 8-2 lead.
After the Scorpions got three runs back in the fifth, the Lightning got some insurance and added to their cushion with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Lewis singled home Pillsbury to make it 9-2 before a Surinach sacrifice fly plated another. Tanner Clark’s (North Florida) double scored Lewis and Backus, making it 12-5.
Pillsbury came in to pitch the top of the seventh and slammed the door on the Scorpions for a 12-5 win, the Lightning’s ninth straight victory.
Lightning head coach Rich Billings said the winning streak builds a lot of momentum for the playoffs. “I think it’s important,” Billings said. “I think we’re all happy to have this momentum for the playoffs. But, it is the playoffs. Anybody can beat anybody. I don’t think it matters what seed you are at this point. It’s just about winning ballgames and trying to stay hot.”