The Winter Park Diamond Dawgs put up eight runs in the second inning on Sanford Tuesday night. Then they lost the game in a blowout.
The loss was emblematic of an up-and-down season the Dawgs (5-9) have suffered from in the first three weeks of Florida Collegiate Summer League ball. After falling into a hole at the start of the season, the Dawgs had slowly climbed out last week, until Sanford (10-4) pushed them right back in again.
After losing two of three games midweek, the Dawgs managed a shaky win Friday to prevent the Lightning (5-10) from striking twice in back-to-back games after a 7-4 loss June 16.
Only three Dawgs hitters would bat their way to first base in the game, but that was enough. Jacob Silverstein hammered in the Dawgs first and last runs on two hits, Jordan Bowersox added another on a sac fly for the winning score, and Eliot Shapleigh added some insurance for the 4-2 win.
In that game it was Justin Kortessis holding down the Lightning with a six-inning, five-strikeout effort, giving up only one earned run in the process. Patrick Coffin put the nail in it with three innings of scoreless relief.
But the euphoria wouldn’t last long for the Dawgs, who were about to lose their third game out of four for the week.
The trip to Sanford was a bit of a heartbreaker for the Dawgs, who had let the Rats slowly draw out a lead with short rallies in the first two innings that added up to a 2-0 game. The two-run top of the fifth that tied it up for the Dawgs seemed like a turning point, after a single put first baseman Josh DeBacker on base, cueing up Tyler Homer to live up to his name with a two-run blast that made it a 2-2 ballgame. Two quick outs later, the rally was over as soon as it started.
That’s when the Rats turned on DeBacker. He’d been moved to the mound to try to shut down Sanford, but instead gave up their biggest inning of the game. But at the start it wasn’t looking that way. A double was sandwiched between two fly outs, and Zach Diewert strode to the plate just a ground ball away from ending the inning. Two pitches later, the fourth fly ball DeBacker allowed that inning left the yard. Two runs scored. DeBacker would end the inning two batters later, but by then the score was all Sanford needed.
Over the course of the final four innings, the Dawgs managed just one hit. They would fall 5-2, falling behind the Squeeze and DeLand Suns in the standings. The Suns won three straight games to vault themselves out of last place before the streak snapped.
Then Tuesday night the bottom dropped out of the pit and the Dawgs fell even farther. It happened in a hurry; the Dawgs hung eight runs on Sanford’s Cody Harwell in the second inning alone to make it an 8-0 game. Nearly every batter in the Dawgs lineup picked up an RBI in that inning, with Josh DeBacker driving in two to lead the team in that wild rally.
Little did the Dawgs know that after that dominating second inning they wouldn’t record another hit in the entire game, and Sanford was about to plate 15 runners. The Rats would smash five doubles and two homeruns as they tore Winter Park’s pitching apart over the course of the next seven innings, smashing 13 hits and 15 runs to win 15-8 in an error prone game that also featured 11 walks combined.
After the first two weeks some Florida League batters were still swinging in the .600 range, but now they’ve settled down to Earth. Omar Villaman of the Rats is leading with a .463, while the Rats’ Reed Hayes has three homeruns and 14 RBI, leading the league in both.
Those big bats may be why the Sanford River Rats continue to dominate the league, winning eight of their last 10 games.
Meanwhile the Dawgs’ stock-in-trade, aside from an odd propensity for hitting for power and not for average, is pitching. Trevor Tinder has struck out 19 batters so far to lead the league, while Kortessis is tied for second in the league in wins. After 17 innings Kortessis is also near the top for ERA at 2.65.
Friday the Dawgs host the Boom, with their winningest pitcher, Justin Kortessis, scheduled to take the mound at 7 p.m. Bishop Moore’s stadium. They’ll be back home at 7 p.m. Monday hosting the Suns.
The Rats will be road-tripping for the weekend but come back home at 7 p.m. Tuesday to face the Altamonte Springs Boom, who are close behind in second place.