It was the first-ever meeting between the Sanford River Rats and the Orlando Monarchs. There was a marriage proposal on the field before the ninth inning. And the River Rats pulled off the biggest comeback in league history, shocking the Monarchs 9-8 on a two-run, walk-off double by Daniel Seeba (USC-Upstate).
The victory capped off a good weekend that saw the Sanford squad go 2-1, sandwiching a 10-4 loss at the hands of the DeLand Suns on Saturday with an 11-7 triumph over the Leesburg Lightning on Friday and Monday’s huge comeback to get to 3-4 on the season.
The Monarchs held a 7-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning, with nearly every Orlando hitter recording a hit. Meanwhile, Monarch starting pitcher Matt Mitchell (Grambling State) only allowed one run on two hits through the first six innings.
Down 7-1, the River Rat rally began in the seventh inning, when Drew Weeks led off the inning with a single, and eventually scored to give the River Rats their second run of the game.
In the eighth, Weeks hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track to drive in Andrew Brodbeck (Flagler), and Jordan Strittmatter (USF) drilled a two-run double with two outs to cut the Monarch lead to 7-5.
In the top of the ninth, Blake Prince walked and came around to score to extend the Monarch lead to 8-5.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Ryan Woodrey (Nova Southeastern) walked and the first pitch to Kevin Wortman (Florida Tech) plunked the center fielder. Leadoff-hitter Tyler Lesch (USC-Upstate) then drew another walk to load the bases and Brodbeck followed with a walk to bring Woodrey home.
After a wild pitch brought Wortman to the plate and cut the lead to 8-7, Seeba launched a ball into the right-center field gap to bring in Lesch and Brodbeck, and was subsequently mobbed by his River Rat teammates.
Seeba’s walk off double capped a 4-for-5 day for the Bowie, Md., native, who was the only River Rat with a hit through the sixth inning. Alex Graham (USC Beaufort) recorded his first River Rat win, pitching the ninth inning for Sanford. Assisting Graham in relief were Eddie Abramson (Case Western Reserve), Gabe Rivera (Florida Gulf Coast), and Joe Adel (USF). The three early relievers combined to surrender only one unearned run, striking out seven hitters in 5.1 innings pitched.
The River Rats had a rematch with the Monarchs at Tinker Field on Tuesday and will also be at Tinker Field on Thursday around a home game against the Suns today (Wednesday) at 11 a.m. for Camp Day.
After the trip to Orlando, Sanford will return home for games on Friday and Saturday against the Orlando Freedom (Friday) and DeLand (Saturday). All of those games will begin at 7 p.m. The locals will then travel to Leesburg for a 5 p.m. on Sunday.
In the other two weekend games:
The DeLand Suns offense got going on Saturday night, leading them to a 10-4 victory over the Sanford River Rats at Conrad Park, their third straight win.
The Suns racked up 11 hits total in the game, including a hit from six of the nine batters in the lineup. Head Coach Rick Hall said he liked the lineup he had going out there tonight.
“I felt we had a pretty good offensive team in there tonight,” Hall said. “They threw some pretty good arms at us and I liked how we battled and we came through with a couple key hits and put pressure on their defense.”
The Suns (4-1) got the offense going right away, grabbing a run in the first inning. Mike Small (Richmond) led off with a walk and advanced on a wild pitch. Erik Lunde (Lander) then came through with an RBI single to get the night going.
After scoring a run in the second inning, the Suns’ offense really exploded with four runs, on three hits, in the third inning. Clay Ardeeser (Georgia College) doubled, and Blake Sydeski (South Florida) followed with a walk. Jake Pequignot (CCBC-Essex) reached on a bunt single to load the bases, and Small drove home a run with an RBI groundout to shortstop. Lunde then drove home two runs with a single.
The Suns put the game away with a three-run, eighth inning. The big hit in the inning was a two-run single from Jeff Lemon (Embry-Riddle), which pushed the lead to 10-4.
Jake Meiers (Florida Atlantic) got the win for the Suns, pitching five innings, giving up five hits and struck out one batter. He did a good job with the run support he was given, and kept the Sanford offense off the scoreboard. Coach Hall said he was pleased with his performance on the mound.
“He is going to do that for us, he will keep us in the ball game,” Hall said after the game.
Daniel Stoops (Umass) pitched an inning in relief for the Suns. Chad Rood (Stetson) pitched two innings, and Kevin Lindheim (Stetson) finished the game. Coach Hall has been looking for an opportunity to get Lindheim some action on the mound, and tonight was just that.
“We have been trying to get Kevin in for two years now,” Hall said. “It’s good for him personally, and it helps us down the road.”
Lunde finished the game with a total of three RBI on the night, a game high, on two hits, one of four Suns players to post a multi-hit game. Pequignot led the team with three hits.
Sanford was held to just eight hits on the night, but Nick Delerme blasted his first home run of the season and Weeks ripped his first double of the season. Wortman was the only River Rat with multiple hits, going 2-for-4, while Seeba, Spencer Hermann, Tommy Williams and Strittmatter also had safties.
On Friday, the Sanford River Rats racked up 12 hits and 11 runs in front of a packed house at Pat Thomas Stadium to send the raucous Leesburg Lightning fans home early in a dominant 11-7 victory. The four run lead was not nearly as close as the scoreboard read.
The Rats scored early and often in a contest that featured tough outings by both squads’ pitching staffs.
Sanford got the offensive onslaught going in the first inning to take a three-run lead. A pair of walks brought Daniel Seeba (USC-Upstate) to the plate in an RBI situation. Seeba responded with a double in the gap to bring home Alex Mendez (USF). Two outs later, Tommy Williams (UCF) ripped a single to score two more.
Starter Nick Gonzalez (USF) had a tough first inning in the bottom half of the frame, allowing Leesburg to tie the score, but settled in nicely to finish his outing. Gonzalez went four innings, allowing just one more run after the first while striking out five.
The Rats continued scoring at will in the middle innings, picking up two in the third and fourth innings, adding another three in the fifth.
“Our guys came out from the first inning and really executed getting on, getting them over and getting them in,” head coach Steve Piercefield said. “We stuck to our plan of getting quality at bats. We had numerous guys with more than three quality at bats. Guys really capitalized on opportunities.”
The fifth inning scoring was facilitated by three straight singles by Williams, Andrew Broadbeck (Flagler) and Ryan Woodrey (Nova Southeastern). Woodrey finished the game with three RBI and a pair of runs scored. Williams tacked on three RBI and two runs.
“I had a great opportunity to come up in a big spot tonight,” Woodrey said. “I was able to get deep in the count and see a couple of pitches before I found a good one to hit. I was just glad my teammates were able to get on base to put me in that spot and give me that opportunity.”
The three-run fifth put the Rats in control for the remainder of the game, as the Lightning mustered up three runs in the bottom of the ninth to push the final closer than the momentum dictated.
Brett Allen (Embry-Riddle) provided a dominant relief performance to pick up the win on the mound. Allen went three strong innings, staggering a pair of hits and allowing no runs. Mike Glassic (East Stroudsburg) added four strikeouts in the late innings to finish the game.
“Our bullpen came up huge tonight,” Piercefield said. “They flipped up some zeros when we really needed them, and allowed us the opportunity to keep scoring runs.”
Dylan Hathcock (UNC-Greensboro) took the loss for the Lightning in 3.2 innings of work. The starter allowed seven runs on six hits.