Winter Garden's victory in the win-or-go-home game Tuesday night means it will now take on top-seeded Sanford in a best-of-three series.
LEESBURG The Winter Garden Squeeze will live to play another day.
The Squeeze, who entered the Florida Collegiate Summer League Playoffs as the fifth — and final — seed, topped the host Leesburg Lightning (19-20) by a score of 9-4 in the league's Playoff Play-In Game Tuesday night.
In particular, Winter Garden (17-21) got the best of a wild third inning that saw the two teams combine for 10 total runs. In the top half of the inning, the Squeeze posted six runs, capped by a two-run home run by Kyle Corbin, who recently returned from an injury.
Leesburg responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, by the time the inning was complete, the score had gone from a 1-0 Squeeze advantage to 7-4 in their favor.
For manager Jay Welsh, the best part of the night was that his ballclub — which has struggled to hit this season — continued its strong play of late at the plate with 15 total hits Tuesday night.
"We've been hitting — our last three games, we've had over a dozen hits each time," Welsh said. "What happens is, when you play guys all year, and most of your team has more than 60 at-bats, you just hope they get hot at the right time."
Also crucial to the success of the Squeeze was that starting pitcher Ryan Ashworth rebounded after the rough third inning to toss four more scoreless innings, going seven innings in total en route to the win.
"(Ashworth) is a really good pitcher in the fact that he knows how to correct — good pitchers know how to self-correct," Welsh said. "It was kind of one of those things where you don't panic (as a manager)."
Lance Johnson came on in the eighth in the setup role and Ethan Jones, who finished the regular season tied for the league-lead in saves, came on to close for Winter Garden.
Next up, the Squeeze will play top-seeded Sanford (30-12) in a best-of-three to decide who will play at Tropicana Field on Sunday for the FCSL Championship. The series starts Wednesday at 7 p.m., with the second game schedule for Thursday and the deciding game — if necessary — on the books for Friday. All three games will take place at Sanford's Historic Memorial Stadium.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].