Sunday’s regular season finale for the Winter Garden Squeeze could have been a throwaway game.
The final standings for the 2014 regular season of the Florida Collegiate Summer League had already been determined going into the final day of play, with the Squeeze having locked up third place and avoided Tuesday’s Play-In Game in doing so.
But, the way head coach Ruben Felix saw it, his ball club had already been on a roll the past few days and — with a playoff series looming this week against No. 2 seed Winter Park — winning Sunday’s game and amassing some extra momentum heading into Game One on Wednesday sure couldn’t hurt.
And so, for the second day in-a-row, the Squeeze (22-18) defeated the first place Sanford River Rats (23-13) — the two victories standing alone as Winter Garden's sole wins over the River Rats this season — and, by way of that 7-5 victory, concluded the regular season by winning four of their final five games.
Not a bad way to finish the regular season.
“That’s really why today I wanted to go after them [Sanford] with our top guys and make them [the Squeeze] believe that we’re just as good as them,” Felix said afterward. “For me, momentum is big — especially going into the postseason. …
“Hopefully these guys roll that momentum into Wednesday.”
The best-of-three playoffs series between Winter Garden and the Diamond Dawgs (25-17) will start on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in DeLand.
Winter Park has the home field advantage in the series, meaning they will host Game One and Game Three (if necessary), but, since Alfond Stadium in Winter Park is unavailable for the remainder of the season, the Dawgs will play those home games at Conrad Park in DeLand.
Game Two of the series, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, will be held in Winter Garden at West Orange High School.
The two teams played each other well during the regular season, with Winter Park holding a narrow 5-4 advantage in the season series. Given how closely the two teams have battled so far, the series figures to be an entertaining one with some tightly contested games.
“I think we match up very well … it’s all going to come down to who executes on defense, especially,” Felix said. “I think they’re going to be close games so hopefully we’re on the right side of that puzzle.”
One thing that is for sure is that the four wins the Squeeze have picked up down the stretch, including a combined no-hitter from the pitching staff against Freedom on Friday, have ignited the spirits of Winter Garden’s roster going into the three most important games of the year.
“The team’s really getting on to a hot-streak,” Squeeze pitcher Brandon Murray (USF), who tossed six innings in Friday’s no-hitter, said. “We all have fun playing with each other … once everybody steps on that field it’s time to work hard.”
Regular season by the numbers
Of the 45 games that were on the schedule for Winter Garden, the Squeeze completed 40, putting them second behind Winter Park (42) in number of games played. Florida’s famous summer storm season wreaked havoc on the schedule for several teams, with DeLand finishing 39 games, Sanford playing 36, Leesburg completing 35 and College Park finishing a league-low 34 ballgames.
The Squeeze recorded their best season series record against DeLand, finishing 6-2 against the Suns. Winter Garden finished 6-3 against College Park, 4-3 against Leesburg, 4-5 against Winter Park and fared the worst against Sanford, going 2-5 against the River Rats on the season.
The Squeeze were second in the league in runs scored, with 189, and third in the league in runs allowed, allowing 189.
Who’s “Crush-ing” it?
Miguel Ceballos (Virginia Tech) had a strong finish to the regular season at the plate for the Squeeze, driving in 3 runs to pair with the 3 runs he scored for Winter Garden in their final five games.
Ceballos hit .350 in those last five games, including going 3-for-5 in the regular season finale against Sanford.
On the mound, Brady Domangue (Louisiana State) picked up a pair of winning decisions for the Squeeze, going eight innings in a 6-5 win over the River Rats and two innings in a 4-2 win over Winter Park.
Domangue has a 3-1 record on the season and has made eight appearances for Winter Garden.
FCSL Playoffs: Winter Garden vs. Winter Park
Game One — at DeLand (WP home game); 7 p.m., Wednesday
Game Two — at Winter Garden; 7 p.m., Thursday
Game Three (if necessary) — at DeLand (WP home game); 7 p.m., Friday
Winner to 2014 FCSL Championship Game — at Tropicana Field, Tampa; Time TBD, Sunday.