7/25/16 vs. Winter Park Diamond Dawgs: Pregame Notes

LEESBURG, Fla. – The Leesburg Lightning (16-20) and Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (14-19) commence the final week of the regular season tonight with two games at Pat Thomas Stadium – Buddy Lowe Field.

Leesburg and Winter Park will begin at 4:30 p.m. with the resumption of their suspended game from July 12, with the Lightning leading 7-4 in the fourth inning. The two teams will play their regularly scheduled game following the conclusion of the first game.

Having won four of their last five, the Lightning and Diamond Dawgs are both vying for the fifth and final playoff spot. Leesburg is just a half game ahead of the Diamond Dawgs and with the two teams partaking in a three-game series — Tuesday’s game being played in Winter Park — it’ll look to be the most important series of the season for both teams.

“The series with the River Rats was huge but these three games with Winter Park could make or break us,” Head Coach Rich Billings said.

While three straight wins over the Diamond Dawgs would put the Lightning ahead by 3.5 games, three losses would place them 2.5 games out of fifth place.

“These guys know what’s at stake this week,” Billings said. “Nothing really changes, we’ll go out and play our game to the best of our ability.”

Game 1: Lightning Starting Lineup 

  1. A. Simmons – CF
  2. Bonilla – RF
  3. Scanlon – 1B
  4. C. Simmons – 3B
  5. Long – DH
  6. Nixon – SS
  7. Baez – C
  8. Koenig – LF
  9. Pagliei – 2B

Lightning are leading the Diamond Dawgs 7-4 in the third inning when play resumes.

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Lightning Conclude Week Having Won 4 of 5

The Leesburg Lightning (16-20) conclude their week of play having won four of their last five. They started out the week on Tuesday, at home against the Winter Garden Squeeze. A five-run third and a four-run fourth did the Lightning in as they dropped a tough one in seven innings, 14-2. The following night, Wednesday, the two teams traveled to West Orange High School for two games. The first game was a resumption of a suspended game from Friday, July 15. The Lightning held a 2-0 lead through two innings of play and they went on to win 5-4. In the second game, Leesburg enacted revenge as they scored nine runs in the fourth — the most they’ve scored in any inning this season —- and cruised to a 14-1 win in seven innings.

Leesburg then turned things around on Thursday and traveled to Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium to open up a three-game set with the first place Sanford River Rats. A back and forth game through the first few innings turned out to be a drubbing as the Lightning fell 10-4. Things turned around on Friday, though, as the two teams traveled back home to Pat Thomas Stadium – Buddy Lowe Field for game two. After another back and forth battle, the Lightning pushed through in the eighth inning to pull out the win, 8-6. On Saturday, the series made its way back to Sanford for the series finale. River Rats starter Jacob Billingsley no-hit Leesburg through the first six innings but the Lightning surprised many and erupted with seven runs over the next two innings, pulling away with an 8-3 win to capture the series.

Following a 4-2 week, the Lightning head into the final week of the regular season, in sole possession of fifth place. They will have a hectic final seven days as they start out on Monday with two games at home. The Lightning and sixth place Winter Park Diamond Dawgs will resume a suspended game from July 12, followed by their regularly scheduled game. They will then travel to Bishop Moore High School on Tuesday to conclude the series. It will be a pivotal series for both teams as they are both jocking for the final playoff spot.

Leesburg will then travel to DeLand on Wednesday to resume another suspended game with the Suns. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will be three games with the Altamonte Springs Boom, with Friday’s game being played at Pat Thomas Stadium. They will then conclude the week and regular season on Sunday, at home against the DeLand Suns once again.

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7/23/16 @ Sanford River Rats: Pregame Notes

SANFORD, Fla. – The Leesburg Lightning (15-20) and Sanford River Rats (22-13) conclude their three-game set tonight as they return to Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

After falling in game one of the series on Thursday night, 10-4, the Lightning returned back home to Pat Thomas Stadium – Buddy Lowe Field on Friday night and picked up an all-important 8-6 win.

“We gave ourselves an opportunity to get a huge series win,” Head Coach Rich Billings said. “With only 10 games remaining, we know we need to pick up series wins. Last night’s win will hopefully help to remind us of that.”

With a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning, Leesburg was in a tough position with runners on second and third with one out. A slow dribbler made its way to Josh Pagliei at second base and without much hesitation, he rushed the throw to Harrison Scanlon at first, resulting in a throwing error that allowed both runners to score to tie the game.

No problem for the Lightning.

In the bottom of the eighth, Austin Simmons lined a shot into right field that just got over the right fielder’s glove resulting in an RBI triple to give Leesburg the lead once again, 7-6. Scanlon responded one batter later with another RBI, scoring Simmons to make it 8-6.
The Lightning held on in the ninth, escaping with a crucial victory over the first place River Rats.

“Austin continues to swing a hot bat,” Billings said after the game. “He came through with some huge hits for us tonight, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s in the lineup every single night.”

After an atmosphere at Pat Thomas Stadium on Friday night that was both controversial at times, and slightly heated, the Lightning will look to recapture that same glory tonight as they are now tied for the final playoff spot in the Florida League.

Lightning Starting Lineup

  1. Nixon – SS
  2. A. Simmons – CF
  3. Scanlon – 1B
  4. C. Simmons – 3B
  5. Long – RF
  6. Bonilla – LF
  7. Baez – C
  8. Harris – DH
  9. Pagliei – 2B

On the mound: Chris Lake

Lake comes into tonight’s series finale with a 2-3 record and a 4.88 ERA. After throwing 6.2 innings on July 4, in a win over Winter Park, Lake has faltered in his last two starts. He’s allowed nine runs (five earned) in four innings of work over those two starts and is looking for a new result tonight.

In two appearances against the River Rats, Lake has allowed just one earned run in four innings.

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7/22/16 vs. Sanford River Rats: Pregame Notes

LEESBURG, Fla. – The Leesburg Lightning (14-20) and Sanford River Rats (22-12) travel to Lake County tonight for the second game of their three-game set. The two teams will matchup at Pat Thomas Stadium – Buddy Lowe Field at 6 p.m.

In Thursday night’s series opener, the River Rats used a five-run outburst in the fifth inning along with four more runs in the seventh to ease to a 10-4 win at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the third, Leesburg allowed Sanford to retaliate with two runs in the bottom of the inning, tying the game. Call Graham was effective through the first two innings but struggled with walks and getting behind in the count with hitters. He allowed five runs (all earned) in four innings, but also walked three while taking the loss — his fourth of the summer.

“Call looked strong at points, but struggled during others,” Head Coach Rich Billings said. “He kept us in the game but got behind too many hitters, allowing Sanford the opportunity to keep innings alive and score runs that otherwise wouldn’t have scored.”

On the offensive side, the Lightning left a total of 11 runners on base — six of them coming between the fifth and seventh. After Sanford scored four in the fifth, Leesburg had a golden opportunity to get back in the game in the sixth with runners on first and second and only one out, but failed to take advantage and came up empty.

“At any point in the season you just can’t make those mistakes,” Billings said. “Whether it’s against a first place team like Sanford or against any other team, wasting too many scoring opportunities is a one way trip to the loss column.”

Leesburg will look to rebound tonight at home as they are now a game back of the fifth place Diamond Dawgs. With the home crowd behind them, the hopes are that a win will ensue.

Lightning Starting Lineup

  1. Nixon – SS
  2. A. Simmons – CF
  3. Scanlon – 1B
  4. C. Simmons – 3B
  5. Long – RF
  6. Bonilla – LF
  7. Baez – DH
  8. Mauer – C
  9. Pagliei – 2B

On the mound: Daniel Baxter

In eight appearances, Baxter is 0-2 with a 6.07 ERA. He has 10 strikeouts in 13.1 innings pitched but has walked nine. His only appearance against Sanford came back on June 15 in which he allowed a run and two hits in 0.2 innings.

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7/21/16 @ Sanford River Rats: Pregame Notes

SANFORD, Fla. – Following a most important doubleheader sweep of the Winter Garden Squeeze on Wednesday night, the Leesburg Lightning (14-19) return to action tonight against the first place Sanford River Rats (21-12). The two teams will begin their three-game set at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium beginning at 7 p.m.

After a 5-4 win in game one and a 14-1 shellacking in game two, the Lightning made their way back home late Wednesday night only a half game back of the fifth place Winter Park Diamond Dawgs.

“Those wins were huge, there’s no other way to put it,” Head Coach Rich Billings said. “Our confidence has really been down over the past week or so and if there’s going to be a turning point towards the end of the season, yesterday was it.”

Leesburg is 2-4 vs. Sanford on the season and split a home-and-home series the last time the two teams met in late June. 

“You never know what you’re going to get with this team when you see them,” Billings said. “The way [KD] operates this team, we may see a bunch of guys we haven’t seen yet this summer.”

“We just have to go out there, execute, and play our game.”

Lightning Starting Lineup

  1. Nixon – SS
  2. A. Simmons – CF
  3. Scanlon – 1B
  4. C. Simmons – 3B
  5. Long – RF
  6. Baez – C
  7. Bonilla – LF
  8. Burgess – DH
  9. Pagliei – 2B

On the mound: Call Graham

Despite his winless resume on the season, Graham has been modestly effective for the Lightning. He owns the most quality starts on the pitching staff, with four of his six starts lasting at least four innings. 

Graham faced the River Rats on June 23, lasting three innings in their 9-4 extra innings victory in Sanford. He struck out three but allowed four runs while settling for the no-decision. He’ll look to keep Sanford off balance at the plate and minimize free passes, which have come back to bite Leesburg far too many times this season.

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7/20/16 DH @ Winter Garden Squeeze: Pregame Notes

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – The Leesburg Lightning (12-19) and Winter Garden Squeeze (16-14) get together today for two games of Florida League baseball. 

The two teams will resume their suspended game from July 15, beginning at 5 p.m., followed by their regularly scheduled game. 

Tuesday night’s game at Pat Thomas Stadium was a downright disaster for the Lightning, resulting in a 14-2 defeat in seven innings. Chris Lake was unable to make it through two innings and the Squeeze pounded Leesburg’s bullpen to the tune of a three-run homer and a grand slam. 

The Squeeze have turned it on since the All-Star Break and are currently tied for second place with the DeLand Suns. They’re looking to take two more games from the Lightning as they are beginning to hang on to their playoff chances by a thread. 

Leesburg is now a full game back of the fifth place Winter Park Diamond Dawgs for the final playoff spot.

With Winter Garden coming into today’s doubleheader on a four game win streak, and three straight games upcoming against the first place Sanford River-Rats, the Lightning will happily accept any offer of a glimmering hope over the final two weeks of the summer. 

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7/19/16 vs. Winter Garden Squeeze: Pregame Notes

LEESBURG, Fla. -The Leesburg Lightning (12-18) welcome the Winter Garden Squeeze (15-14) to Pat Thomas Stadium tonight for the first of a home-and-home series. The Lightning come in having lost five of their last six, while the Squeeze have won three in a row.

Winter Garden is currently a half game back of the second place DeLand Suns and have been advancing upwards in the Florida League over the past month.

Leesburg, on the other hand, are a half game back of the fifth place Winter Park Diamond Dawgs and have been in last place in the Florida League for most of the season.

With 14 games remaining and two more to be finished due to suspension, the Lightning have much business to take care of and are in desperate need of a stretch of consistent performances over the final two weeks. After two games against the Squeeze, Leesburg will play three against the Sanford River Rats, who are in first place by a comfortable 3.5 games.

Lightning Starting Lineup

  1. Nixon – SS
  2. A. Simmons – CF
  3. Scanlon – 1B
  4. Long – RF
  5. C. Simmons – 3B
  6. Baez – DH
  7. Mauer – C
  8. Pagliei – 2B
  9. Bonilla – LF

On the mound: Chris Lake

Lake comes into tonight’s start with a 2-2 record and a 4.97 ERA. After two straight victories on June 21 vs. DeLand and on July 4 vs. Winter Park, Lake struggled mightily on July 11 vs. Winter Park, allowing five runs (four earned) in 1.2 innings of work. His ERA ballooned from 3.80 to 4.97 during the start and was his worst performance since his second start on June 8 against DeLand.

With some run support and a little bit of luck from the weather department in Leesburg, Lake will look to get back in the win column and begin the turn around that the Lightning need as the season dwindles to a close.

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Week in Review for Lightning

Coming off the All-Star Break, the Leesburg Lightning were only able to play two games during the past week due to inclement weather.

On Monday, the Lightning welcomed the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs to Pat Thomas Stadium. They swept the Diamond Dawgs in a two-game series at home the week before, but didn’t have the same luck on Monday night. Winter Park roughed up Leesburg starter Chris Lake for five runs in two innings and cruised to a 7-2 win.

Two days later, Leesburg was mystified by DeLand starter Brady Mintell as he shellshocked the Lightning with an eight inning shutout performance. He allowed just four hits and struck out six. The Lightning out-hit the Suns seven to three and rallied the troops in the ninth once Mintell had exited, but it came short as they fell in a close one, 2-1.

At 12-18 and sitting in sixth place in the Florida League, the Lightning will look to right the ship over the final two weeks of the summer. After appearing in the championship game in 2015, Leesburg has an ample amount of work to do if they hope to repeat those same results this year. They will face the Winter Garden Squeeze for two to begin the next week, before finishing out the week with a three-game set against the first place Sanford River Rats.

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7/15/16 @ Winter Garden Squeeze: Pregame Notes

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – The Leesburg Lightning (12-18) travel to West Orange High School tonight to try and put an end to their current five-game losing streak. They will take on the Winter Garden Squeeze (15-14) who have won three consecutive games.

Brady Mintell marched into Pat Thomas Stadium on Wednesday night, and threw an absolute gem. After throwing 7.2 scoreless innings in his previous start, Mintell shutout the Lightning over eight innings.

He allowed just four hits and struck out six as the Suns beat the Lightning, 2-1.

Even though Leesburg outhit DeLand, seven to three, the Lightning were unable to provide a true scoring opportunity until the ninth inning — after Mintell had exited the game.

Igor Baez came to the plate with runners on first and second and two outs, and fought Suns reliever Vincent Rosace to the tune of seven straight foul offs, before singling into left-center to bring the Lightning within a run.

Michael Koenig looked to be the hero and drive in Tanner Long — just 90 feet away — but Rosace got him to foul out to right field, ending Leesburg’s threat.

Having now lost five consecutive, the Lightning are in dire need of a turn around as they are now 8 games back of the first place Sanford River Rats (20-10) and one game back of the fifth place Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (12-16).

Leesburg has the most losses in the Florida League and with just 15 games remaining, they are slowly running out of time.

 

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7/14/16 @ DeLand Suns: Pregame Notes

DELAND, Fla. – The Leesburg Lightning (12-18) travel to Conrad Park tonight to try and put an end to their current five-game losing streak. They will take on the DeLand Suns (15-14) for the second night in a row.

Brady Mintell marched into Pat Thomas Stadium on Wednesday night, and threw an absolute gem. After throwing 7.2 scoreless innings in his previous start, Mintell shutout the Lightning over eight innings.

He allowed just four hits and struck out six as the Suns beat the Lightning, 2-1.

Even though Leesburg outhit DeLand, seven to three, the Lightning were unable to provide a true scoring opportunity until the ninth inning — after Mintell had exited the game.

Igor Baez came to the plate with runners on first and second and two outs, and fought Suns reliever Vincent Rosace to the tune of seven straight foul offs, before singling into left-center to bring the Lightning within a run.

Michael Koenig looked to be the hero and drive in Tanner Long — just 90 feet away — but Rosace got him to foul out to right field, ending Leesburg’s threat.

Having now lost five consecutive, the Lightning are in dire need of a turn around as they are now 7.5 games back of the first place Sanford River Rats (19-10) and 1.5 games back of the fifth place Winter Park Diamond Dawgs (12-15).

Leesburg has the most losses in the Florida League and with just 15 games remaining, they are slowly running out of time.

After tonight and Friday night’s games on the road, they will have off until next Tuesday before returning home to take on the Winter Garden Squeeze (14-14). The tides need to change, and quickly.

Lightning Starting Lineup

  1. Nixon – SS
  2. A. Simmons – CF
  3. Scanlon – 1B
  4. Long – RF
  5. C. Simmons – 3B
  6. Baez – DH
  7. Mauer – C
  8. Hanlon – LF
  9. Pagliei – 2B

On the mound: Call Graham

Graham comes into tonight’s start with an 0-3 record and a 5.31 ERA. He’s gone at least four innings in four of his last five starts but the Lightning haven’t scored more than two runs in any of those five starts.

The right-handed pitcher is a raw arm with average off-speed stuff, and is a few runs of support away from picking up his first victory of the summer.

 

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