LEESBURG, Fla. -- What’s better than playoff baseball? There is truly nothing like a postseason game at Pat Thomas Stadium. The Seminole County Scorpions had the daunting task of walking into the Pat to face the Leesburg Lightning in a win-or-go-home situation. The matchup was the play-in game of the FCSL playoffs, with the winner moving on to face the top seed, Winter Park, and the loser going home.
The matchup was a pitcher’s duel from start to finish. Quinton Martinez took the ball for the Scorpions and delivered a masterpiece. The lefty tossed seven innings of nearly flawless baseball, allowing no runs and just three hits. He also racked up five strikeouts.
Dylan Kelley (South Florida State) was on the mound for the Bolts. He allowed his one and only run in the fourth inning, when Michael Christopoulos drove in a run on a 4-3 groundout. The Scorpions took a 1-0 lead, which lasted for seven innings.
Kelley exited in the sixth, finishing with a line of 5.2 innings of one run ball, while allowing just three hits and fanning eight batters. Kelley was replaced by Amir Asghar (undecided) who kept Seminole County off the board for 1.1 innings.
After pitching seven strong innings, Martinez had to leave the game after his pitch count hit the limit of 100 pitches. The Lightning capitalized and plated four runs in the eighth inning. After Parker Pillsbury (Chipola) reached on a leadoff walk, he swiped second and then moved to third on a sacrifice fly. With one out and the Seminole County infield moved up onto the infield grass, Nick Lewis (Valdosta State) snuck a hard ground ball past the third-baseman for a game-tying double.
Jarrett Backus (King College) gave the Lightning the lead on a two-run single that scored Lewis and Cage Cox (Valdosta State). The clutch, two-out bloop hit gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth. The Bolts got some insurance when Backus came home to score thanks to a Donte Wade (North Carolina A&T) double that went all the way to the right-centerfield wall. The Lightning headed into the ninth with a 4-1 lead.
DAndre Knight (Marshall) stayed in the game to close out the Scorpions. Seminole County would score one an error, but would strand two runners on base. The Lightning won the play-in game, 4-2, and will move on to face the top-seeded Winter Park Diamond Dawgs.
Lightning head coach Rich Billings showered praise on his pitching staff. “Dylan deserved a win tonight, but he pitched really, really well,” Billings said. “Amir limited his pitch count so we can use him again tomorrow, which is nice. DAndre came in and just shut them down.” Billings said the Lightning showed a lot of fight tonight, which they’ll need against the Diamond Dawgs. “I think it was good for us to have to fight tonight,” Billings said. “We haven’t proven we can come from behind, so that was good to see. But, our guys know what they’re up against. Winter Park is a great team. But, they know what they can do and they have to come ready to play.”