By, Zack Smolen
Leesburg, FL – With the playoffs less than a week away, the Leesburg Lightning (16-5) scored a key victory against the Sanford Mavericks (5-13) in a game that took nearly four hours Tuesday night at Pat Thomas Stadium. With the win, the Lightning are now a game and a half ahead of the Orlando Scorpions (13-5) for the top seed in the league with three games remaining.
After falling behind 2-0 after the top of the first inning, the Lightning scored 10 unanswered runs from the first through seventh innings, highlighted by a monster four-run fourth to take a commanding lead. Daniel Cruz (Marshall) bolstered the offense, going two for three with a double and three RBI. Robbie Scott (UNF) added a pair of doubles and an RBI of his own, while Diego Arroyo (Indian River) registered his first multi-RBI contest of the season, knocking in two for the game.
The Lightning were in need of a bounce-back victory after losing 5-4 to the DeLand Suns (4-16) on Monday, and they got it with all facets of the team running like a well-oiled machine. Leesburg worked 11 walks, collected eight hits and struck out 12 Mavericks on the mound to put together a complete team victory. “We had some good at-bats tonight,” said Leesburg manager Rich Billings, “We had some timely hits and hopefully we’re fine-tuning for next week.”
Matt Coles (Carson-Newman) pitched masterfully for the Lightning out of the bullpen, earning his second save of the season with four innings of one-run relief and four strikeouts to close out the game. “Keeping the ball low worked,” Coles said after being asked how he navigated the Mavericks’ lineup, “[I was] just trying to get contact to get outs.”
At the start of the game, it looked like the Lightning were going to be upset on their home turf for the second night in a row as the Mavericks quickly scored a pair of runs after the first two batters of the night reached base. Trent Taylor (UCF) and Isaac Nunez (USF) both swiped two bags in the frame and came around to score to get things going and build an early advantage. Unfortunately for Sanford, that would be the last time they would plate a runner until Nunez scored again in the top of the eighth.
Both teams will have off tomorrow but will be right back at it on Thursday as the Mavericks host the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (9-9) at 11am and the Lightning visit the Winter Garden Squeeze (12-8) at 7pm. Each contest will be played at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.