When the Winter Garden Squeeze take the field on Wednesday and resume play from Sunday’s suspended game against the Sanford River Rats, it will be the beginning of a 17-game race to the finish for the first-year franchise.
The Squeeze (14-12) got a chance to rest up on Monday and Tuesday thanks to the Florida Collegiate Summer League’s annual All-Star Game in Sanford — minus the eight Winter Garden players who took part in the game — and coach Ruben Felix’s ballclub should be ready for its playoff push.
Winter Garden enters the final stretch of the season 2.5 games behind the River Rats (16-9) in the standings, tied with Leesburg for third place. It will be a road-heavy finish for the Squeeze, with just seven of those final 17 games taking place at West Orange High School in Winter Garden.
Every remaining game will loom large for Winter Garden as the Squeeze simultaneously chase the league’s top spot while also trying to avoid slipping beneath third place — the league’s sixth place club does not qualify for the playoffs, which begin on July 30, and its fourth and fifth place clubs are to meet in a Play-In Game on July 29.
In the hunt
Thanks to their winning record through more than half of the season, the Squeeze have asserted themselves in the Florida League’s unofficial upper tier.
Winter Garden, Winter Park (15-11), Sanford and Leesburg (12-10) all have winning records and are separated by just 2.5 games in the standings.
DeLand (9-15) and College Park (7-16) sit at the bottom of the summer standings and will be battling one another to avoid the automatic elimination from postseason contention that comes from finishing in last place.
Home sweet home?
It’s a trend that hasn’t gone away as the Squeeze continue to have poor luck at home.
Winter Garden is 6-9 at home this season as the ball just doesn’t seem to bounce its way in key situations in home games. The Squeeze seemed poised for a breakthrough win on July 4, coming up with a ninth-inning rally to force extra-innings against the River Rats, but was eventually defeated 8-4 in 10 innings.
As mentioned earlier, Winter Garden has just five games left on its home field to improve upon its home record.
Struggles with Sanford
The Squeeze have only been in existence for 26 games but, through those 26 games, they have already developed a nemesis — the River Rats.
Winter Garden is 0-4 against Sanford this season, making the Rats the only team the Squeeze have not defeated. In fact, Winter Garden has a winning record against DeLand (4-1), Leesburg (4-2) and College Park (3-2) and has battled Winter Park to a 3-3 draw so far.
The Squeeze came close against Sanford with the extra-inning affair on July 4 and, when the two teams resume play on Wednesday from their suspended game on Sunday, Winter Garden will be leading 2-1 in the second inning.
Who’s “Crush-ing” it?
In honor of Crush, the mascot for the Winter Garden Squeeze, each week we will highlight a pitcher and a batter who “Crush-ed” it for the team during the previous week of play.
Leading Winter Garden at the plate this week was Taylor Becerra (Grayson County College). The Texas native hit .455 for the Squeeze over their four games and had 5 RBIs to pair with the two runs he scored. Becerra is hitting .269 on the season.
On the mound, Winter Garden got a strong performance out of Cole Lipscomb (Auburn) as the starting pitcher for the Squeeze in a 6-4 win over Winter Park on Thursday.
Lipscomb tossed 6.1 innings and allowed just one run and two hits on his way to his second win of the season. The rising sophomore for Auburn has a 1.74 ERA this season and has allowed just five runs over 20.2 innings of work.