LEESBURG, Fla. – Tonight at Pat Thomas Stadium – Buddy Lowe Field, the Leesburg Lightning (#4) and Winter Garden Squeeze (#5) matchup in the Florida Collegiate Summer League play-in game. The winner will advance to play the top seeded Sanford River Rats (#1) in a best-of-three game series, beginning on Wednesday.
Leesburg went 4-5 vs. Winter Garden during the regular season, winning four of the last five — outscoring them 36-24.
Following Sunday night’s 7-3 win over the DeLand Suns, Head Coach Rich Billings was overly adamant about jumping out to an early lead against Winter Garden.
“We need to score early, and no amount of runs is going to be enough on Tuesday night,” Billings said. “The more runs we can score, the more our pitchers will have a chance to breathe and relax. If we can put ourselves in a position to save as many pitchers as possible, that’s a plus as well.”
Although the Lightning have yet to face probable starter, Shane Haight, they’ll look to ride the hot bats at the top of the lineup to a few early runs.
Austin Simmons finished the regular season with 175 AB’s, a new all-time record in the FCSL. He also finishes third all-time in runs (40) and hits (54). Not too shabby. Harrison Scanlon finished the season with a new record for total bases (89), breaking the previous record of 81. He also looks to be the unanimous MVP choice, finishing with a .381 batting average (2nd), 6 HR (2nd), 38 RBI (1st), and 59 hits (1st). A monumental season for the Lightning first basemen.
Long finished with a .285 BA, 4 HR, and 34 RBI (T-2nd). Nixon finished 2nd in stolen bases with 23 and also had 48 hits.
Clay Simmons also had a spectacular season for Leesburg, finishing with a .293 BA, 49 hits, 4 HR, and 26 RBI (T-6th).
It’s the top of the lineup that has carried the Lightning down the stretch, along with their three-armed monster out of the bullpen. MacLain Larson (1.57 ERA), Drew Peden (1.72 ERA), and Dan Twitty (3.75 ERA) staffed a Leesburg bullpen that helped anchor many Lightning wins — especially during their move into playoff contention.
“By scoring runs early, it not only takes the pressure off our starting pitchers but also our guys out of the bullpen,” Billings said.
Even though the Lightning may display well on paper, their true advantage comes in the form of their home crowd at Pat Thomas Stadium.
“Pat Thomas will be rocking on Tuesday night,” Billings said. “These guys know the atmosphere that they’ll get here at home, and they thrive on it.”
First pitch from Pat Thomas Stadium – Buddy Lowe Field is set for 6 p.m.
Lightning Starting Lineup
- Nixon – 2B
- A. Simmons – CF
- Scanlon – 1B
- C. Simmons – 3B
- Long – RF
- Bonilla – LF
- Baez – C
- Koenig – DH
- Pagliei – SS
On the mound: Chris Lake