As the No. 5 seed following the Florida Collegiate Summer League regular season, the Squeeze will battle the No. 4 Lightning for a spot in a best-of-three with top-seed Sanford, beginning Wednesday.
The playoffs have arrived for the 2017 Florida Collegiate Summer League season and they begin with a do-or-die situation for the Winter Garden Squeeze.
As the fifth and final seed in the playoffs, the Squeeze (16-21) will travel to face No. 4 Leesburg (19-19) in a play-in game Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.
The winner of that game will not have long to bask in its victory, having to travel to No. 1-seed Sanford Wednesday night — with the River Rats fresh off setting a regular season record for wins in the Florida League (30).
The series will be a best-of-three, with Thursday's game scheduled to take place at Winter Garden or Leesburg. If a third and deciding game is required, it will take place Friday at Sanford.
Opposite that series will be a best-of-three series between No. 2 Altamonte Springs (19-17) and No. 3 Winter Park (19-18). Because of lightning damage to the facility at Lake Brantley High, where Altamonte plays its home games, Games One and Three (if necessary) will take place at DeLand's Conrad Park.
The two series victors will face off in the FCSL's Championship Game Aug. 6 at Tropicana Field. That game will follow the conclusion of an afternoon game between the host Tampa Bay Rays and the Milwaukee Brewers at 1 p.m. The FCSL Championship Game is expected to tentatively start around 6:30 p.m.
For the Squeeze, the club is hopeful it can overcome an otherwise disappointing, sub-.500 regular season to get hot and make a run for the league title — in what would be a first for the fourth-year franchise.
“I told them going into this stretch run, ‘right now, the hottest team over these two weeks wins — regardless if you’re 25-12 or 12-25,’” manager Jay Welsh said. “The hottest team that gets in the playoffs wins.”
Toward that end, Winter Garden won its final two games of the regular season, both against Winter Park.