Keith Curcio went 2-for-3, including his seventh double of the season, scored two runs and drove in four, while Sam Halpern went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs, to back the combined four-hit pitching of Kyle Bird and Joseph Adel as the Rats stretched their winning streak to six games.
Sanford has won 10 of 12 and is now 17-18 on the season and just a game under .500.
Curcio doubled in the first two runs of the game in the top of the third inning and Halpern followed with a two-run single to make the score 4-0 and the guests never looked back. The Rats tacked on six runs in the top of the sixth inning, including a two-run single by Curcio, and quickly closed out the 10-0 whitewashing.
A full recap of the that game will appear in the Wednesday Sanford Herald.
Sanford had to travel to Orlando to face the Monarchs at Tinker Field on Friday before heading to Leesburg today (Saturday) to challenge the league-leading Lightning at 7 p.m. at Pat Thomas Stadium.
The team will then be idle on Sunday and Monday before returning to Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium for a three-game homestand to close out the regular season beginning on Tuesday against the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs at 7 p.m.
The Rats will host the Orlando Freedom on Wednesday and the DeLand Suns on Thursday to conclude the regular season. Both games are set for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
On Wednesday, Halpern (Barry) hit a pair of home runs, and the Sanford River Rats matched his total with two more blasts as the locals defeated the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs, 8-5, to clinch a spot in the playoffs at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.
“Our guys are putting some great swings on the ball,” head coach Steve Piercefield said of his team’s newfound power. “We’ve been getting some pitches that are up in the zone, and our guys have been able to get the barrel to them.”
Down 2-0 after the first inning, Sanford rattled off an 8-1 run in the middle innings to grab the victory. A last-ditch effort in the ninth inning was not enough for the Diamond Dawgs, who fell three runs short.
The Dawgs looked promising early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first. After Michael Danner (Tampa) singled and stole second and third, a wild pitch brought him home. Following a single by Tyler Rocklein (Florida Atlantic) and a walk by Zach Persky (Rollins), Sean Trent (State College of Florida) drove in the Dawgs second run with a single.
Halpern got the scoring started for the Rats in the second inning with a leadoff home run on the first pitch he saw of the night. Drew Weeks (North Florida) tied the contest two pitches later with a big fly of his own.
“I was looking for a pitch up,” Halpern said. “I was watching warm-ups and I saw that he was leaving his pitches up, so I was looking for a fastball up in the zone to find a gap somewhere.”
The Rats picked up two more in the second, extending the lead to 4-2, when Spencer Hermann (North Florida) knocked a two-out single to plate Nico Delerme (East Stroudsburg) and Alex Mendez (USF). Delerme and Mendez each reached via the walk.
Sean Trent brought Winter Park within one with his third home run of the year with one out in the top of the fourth inning, but that was going to be the closest the Dawgs would get after giving up the lead.
Tommy Williams (UCF) responded with a leadoff solo shot in the bottom of the fourth to extend the lead again, 5-3. Two innings later, Keith Curcio (Florida Southern) brought home Andrew Brodbeck (Flagler) with a two-out single to set the stage for Halpern again.
Halpern drove the third pitch of the at bat well over the left field fence to put the game out of reach at 8-3. The Barry University junior finished the night with the two hits and three RBI.
“I’ve been working with (teammate) Ryan Woodrey (Nova Southeastern) and working on my swing,” Halpern said. “I’ve been making some mechanical fixes to my swing, and it’s just worked out lately.”
John Sever (Daytona State) grabbed his third win of the season with five innings pitched, allowing just three earned runs while striking out three. Four Rat relievers added an inning of work, respectively, to close to door on the Diamond Dawgs.
“John has been throwing the ball well since he signed in the middle of June,” Piercefield said. “He’s someone that we’re going to need to rely as we hit the stretch run. Hopefully, we can keep getting outings like we got tonight.”
The relievers were highlighted by Jason Boyer (Florida Tech), who struck out the side, surrounded by an error and a hit batter, to close out the eighth inning. Boyer currently as the all-time River Rats record holder for strikeouts per inning pitched.
“The guys are finally getting rewarded for the hard work they’ve put in all year,” Piercefield said of his team’s recent hot streak. “We haven’t change our approach from the start, and we don’t plan on changing it for the rest of the year.”