The Florida League-champion River Rats slowed Winter Garden’s red-hot offense in the best-of-three series.
Ahead of their best-of-three series with the Sanford River Rats in the Florida Collegiate Summer League Semifinals last week, it looked as if the Winter Garden Squeeze — which had finished the regular season at 11.5 games out of first place — might have a shot at upsetting the top-seed River Rats.
After all, the bats for the Squeeze had awoken during the final stretch of the regular season. Winter Garden won four of its past five games — including a decisive 9-4 win over Leesburg in the Playoff Play-In Aug. 1.
During those games, manager Jay Welsh’s team had been averaging 10 hits per game.
In the opening game of the series at Sanford, Winter Garden even held a 2-0 lead through six innings, fueling the hopes that this was a team with a trick or two still up its sleeve.
Then the wheels came off.
The River Rats scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game One, spurring a 9-2 win. They then won Game Two 2-0, ending the season for the Squeeze.
Winter Garden combined for 13 hits in the two games — 10 of which came in Game One — but the Squeeze had trouble translating baserunners into runs.
With that, Winter Garden concluded its season with at 17-23, after finishing 16-21 in the regular season. The team’s advancement to the semifinals marked its strongest postseason run since the franchise’s inaugural year, when it lost to Winter Park in three games. The Squeeze did not make the playoffs in 2015 and fell to Leesburg in the Playoff Play-In Game in 2016.
The River Rats went on to win a league-best fourth FCSL Championship Aug. 6 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, rallying to beat Winter Park in extra innings.
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