In one inning, the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs may have changed their whole season.
After a promising start, the Dawgs were in the depths of one of the worst slumps in team history and trying to claw their way out. They had sunk to the bottom of the Florida Collegiate Summer League standings, just ahead of the Winter Garden Squeeze, with two wins in seven games. Try as they might, they couldn’t score.
A pitcher-slash-outfielder, Eliot Shapleigh, had been the team’s best hitter, battling for the league RBI crown and, at .500, had the highest batting average of any player with at least 10 at bats.
Until Monday night, the Dawgs had yet to plate more than four runners in a game, with four of their five losses coming merely by the fact that the Dawgs would have had to set a season-high in the run category to win.
Then Monday night came, and changed all that in one inning.
Blastoff happened before Altamonte Springs Boom pitcher Chris Giordano could get past his first out. Five runs would cross the plate by the time the Boom’s starter was long since hooked. By the time the first-inning carnage was over, the Dawgs’ Josh DeBacker had a .450 batting average and another RBI on his stat sheet. By the time the game was over, Dawgs outfielder Daniel Woodrow would have two triples and three runs scored. And the Dawgs had an 11-4 blowout to put some momentum in their gait, with the help of Trevor Tinder, who grabbed the win and hurled six strikeouts in the game.
Then in the very next game, Tuesday night, after not scoring more than four runs in any game but the last one, the Dawgs crossed the plate five times in the first inning, again.
The Winter Garden Squeeze’s David Herrera’s first inning went like this: single, walk, single, single, run-scoring error, walk, sacrifice fly, strikeout, double. He left just after James Fraser’s big hit plated two runs and gave the Dawgs all the scores they’d need to win the game, and they weren’t even out of the inning yet.
Shapleigh, who never came to the plate in the game, would win it as pitcher, throwing two no-hit innings in middle relief, while preserving his .500 batting average in the process. First baseman Sam Martin would finish the game with an RBI double and a two-run homer.
For the Dawgs (4-5), those two big wins equaled no movement on the Florida Collegiate Summer League ladder, as they still have a deep hole to dig out of, but they’re only a game back from the DeLand Suns.
Meanwhile the Sanford River Rats (6-3) have been locked in a two-way battle for the league lead with the Boom, with two straight wins going into a Wednesday night game at press time.
Stellar pitching has made up for most of the Rats’ lineup hitting about .240 on the year. In the team’s last win, a 4-3 nail-biter over the Suns, a trio of Rats pitchers combined for a five-hit, three-run win, striking out half a dozen in the process.
The Rats and the Dawgs had games set for Wednesday night at press time. At 7 p.m. Thursday the Dawgs are at home against the Leesburg Lightning (5-4), then on the road for a rematch Friday. The Rats host the Squeeze (1-8) at 7 p.m. Thursday, then travel for a rematch in Winter Garden Friday.