LONGWOOD, Fla. – The weekend featured two games between the league leaders, the Leesburg Thunder and the Sanford Monarchs, with the Monarchs handing Leesburg their first two losses of the young season.
In game one on Friday, it was all about Sanford starter Michael McArdle. The Orangewood Christian product had been lights out on the season coming in and McArdle delivered more of the same against the then 5-0 Thunder. He would go seven complete innings without giving up an earned run, leaving the Monarchs with a comfortable 7-1 lead.
Robbie Ginther came in to seal the win and, despite giving up three runs in the 9th, got the job done to send Leesburg home losers for the first time.
Game two on Saturday saw yet another impressive starting pitching performance, this time coming from Thunder starter Alex Smith. Smith, a lefty from USF, put together a gem of an outing, throwing six shutout innings while only allowing six Sanford batters to reach base.
The bullpen faltered, however, giving up three runs in the 7th and four runs in 8th to allow the Monarchs to take a 7-6 lead. Chase Colantino provided the clutch hitting with a bases-clearing double to put Sanford ahead.
Leesburg was not done though, with Brody Rubenstein providing a 2-out single to tie the game and send it in to extra innings.
The teams would find themselves going to the 13th inning, where Sanford was able to take advantage of an error to score the game-winning run and tie the Thunder at 5-2 atop the league standings.
Also on Friday was a battle between the Winter Park Freedom and the Winter Garden Suns.
Winter Garden headed to the 8th inning with a 6-5 lead but Winter Park had plenty of life left in them. Rody Webb provided the first clutch at-bat with a sacrifice fly deep enough to score Will Saxton to tie the game at six apiece.
After Winter Garden regained the lead in the home half of the 8th, Tyler Colson came up huge for the Freedom. Down to the team’s last strike, he was able to get an RBI-single through the infield to once again knot the game up.
The Suns would have the final say at home, however. Johnnie Benniefield III lead off the bottom of the 9th with a walk. Jackson Campbell followed, working the count full before sending a ball in to the gap to score Benniefield from first and give Winter Garden the walk-off win.
After two weeks of play the standings are as follows:
Winter Park: 2-2
Winter Garden: 2-4