Tyler Lesch (USC Upstate) got the Rats off and running in the first inning as he stole second and third base and then scored on a throwing error.
“You have to take what they give you and it was there all day,” Lesch said. “You just have to take advantage of it.”
Lesch stole four bases Monday to give him a league-high six steals in just three games. The most steals any other FCSL team has is five.
“There are a lot of coaches who squander speed, but we want to capitalize on our speed because we have a lot of it. We’re going to run and sometimes we’ll get thrown out, but we want to be able to put pressure on the other team,” head coach Ken Kelly said. “Lesch set the tone right away by running and stealing on the first pitch and scoring. That puts the other team on their heels, which is what the objective is.”
The Rats didn’t just use the stolen base to generate offense, though, as Sanford had four extra-base hits. Rock Rucker (Auburn) showed power to the opposite field to lead off the fourth inning by hitting a triple to the left-center field gap. Connor Marabell (Seminole State) went on to drive Rucker in with a sacrifice fly to center field to push the Rats’ advantage to 2-0.
The triple was Rucker’s first hit of the season as well and shortstop Darian Ramage (St. Mary’s) followed suit in the fifth when his RBI double snapped an 0-for-9 start. A sacrifice fly from Rucker later on in the fifth extended the Rats’ lead to 4-0.
The Suns scored their lone run of the contest in the bottom of the sixth when Bo Decker (Central Florida) hit an RBI single.
That was all DeLand would get, though, as John Sever (Daytona State) and Parker Perez (Seminole State) shut down the Suns.
Sever threw 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit while walking six and striking out four Suns.
“John has always had a huge ability and enormous upside,” Kelly said. “His problem is ... and he still has to refine it is that he throws too many balls and tonight he didn’t. He got himself into too many 3-2 counts, but other than that, he’s got the arm and he’s got the stuff.”
Perez came in to stop a DeLand rally in the fifth by striking Cody Robinson and Corey Linn to end the inning. Perez allowed seven hits and no walks over 4.2 innings while striking out three and earning the win.
“Parker just comes out and is going to give you 100 percent of what he has and go right after you,” Kelly said. “He’s a bulldog.”
The Rats rounded out the scoring with the help of two more doubles in the eighth.
Connor Hornsby (St. Mary’s) came into score from first on an RBI double from Kyle Hamner (West Florida). Luis Benitez (Talladega) came up next and drove in Hamner with his second double of the night.
Kelly was pleased with the Rats’ improved overall effort from their previous two matchups.
“It’s not the best we can play, but we brought our A-game,” head coach Ken Kelly said. “We got timely hits, we got great pitching and we had some very good defense. We had some great catches in the outfield and great plays in the infield. Our catcher (Hamner) did a great job and all around we played like I was hoping we would have played the last two games.”
The River Rats returned home Tuesday to take on the Orlando Monarchs (1-2) at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a good feeling and we love playing in front of our love fans, so we’re excited,” Lesch said.
After a trip to Orlando today (Wednesday, 4 p.m.) the series finale between the Rats and Monarchs will be another eventful night at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium. Thursday will be Latin Night at the ballpark, featuring music from Salsa 98.1 FM starting at 6 p.m.
The Rats will start their next series at home, too, as they welcome the Diamond Dawgs to town Friday. The promotion for Friday night’s matchup will be Boy Scout Night. The night will be full of fun games and an on-the-field campout following the game. Please contact River Rats general manager John Welton, Phone- (407)-493-5315 and Email- firstname.lastname@example.org, for details and to register.
FLORIDA LEAGUE’S 10TH SEASON OPENER A SUCCESS
The 2013 Florida League campaign kicked off with the defending champion DeLand Suns visiting the Sanford River Rats last Tuesday night. Despite an overcast sky, over 1,200 fans packed the stands at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium to catch the first pitch of the season.
Miller’s Ale House was on hand serving over 500 meals to fans as part of a special opening day ticket offer, while Yuengling provided ice cold refreshment for the 21-and-up crowd.
The activities both on and off the field kept the crowd entertained throughout the night. Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett, surrounded by local youth teams on the field, started things off by having his son throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Ralphie the River Rat was spotted dishing out high fives to all the kids. But the biggest ovation of the night went to Mike & Sara Whiting, the founders of the Florida League, as they were honored before the game.
The River Rats had the tough task of facing Florida Collegiate Summer League defending champion DeLand, but lost to the Suns, 8-2, at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.
DeLand catcher Dakota Shadoan gave the Suns an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first with a two-RBI double. River Rats starting pitcher Arturo Martoral was able to settle in after the first, and limited DeLand to one run over the next four innings.
“I thought Arturo threw well, but nowhere near as well as he can,” Head Coach Ken Kelly said. “I think nine of the first 13 guys he faced, he threw ball one to. What we preach is throwing strike one. That’s where he got in trouble and that’s where he hurt himself.”
The River Rats threatened in each of the first four innings, and loaded the bases in the fourth, but the Suns kept Sanford off the scoreboard.
“[They need] to put the ball in play and hit the ball harder. We need to be more aggressive on the bases and do the little things,” said Kelly. “If we don’t hit, we’ll do things like [sacrifice] squeezing, bunting guys over and doing some things to create runs. I really hoped I wouldn’t have to do that with this team because I thought the way we’d been swinging the bat, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Sanford got its first run across the plate in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI groundout from Connor Marabell.
DeLand responded in the next half inning, though, by scoring four runs on two hits, three walks and a error.
The Rats scored one run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh, but the Suns answered again in the top of the eighth with a pinch-hit RBI single by Michael Patrick to round out the scoring for the game.
Center fielder Parker Perez led the River Rats offensively by going two for three with two walks.
Kelly emphasized after the season opener that the River Rats can easily rebound from the loss as long as they are more focused in key situations.
“We had ample opportunities and we didn’t make the plays defensively today where we should have made them and we didn’t put the ball in play when we needed to and hit it hard. If we do those two things, it is a different game,” Kelly said. “Don’t take anything away from DeLand; they did a great job. I’m not as disappointed in how we played as just with our attitude and effort.”
RIVER RATS DROP A HEARTBREAKER TO COLLEGE PARK IN ROAD OPENER
The Sanford River Rats (0-2) got their offense going early on as they built a 5-0 lead after four innings, but the College Park Freedom (1-0) came from behind to earn a 6-5 win Friday at Bishop Moore High School.
“I thought we came out the gate well and sustained that through four innings, but for whatever reason, we didn’t continue to do that,” said Head Coach Ken Kelly. “I believe we had like [five] stolen bases in the first five innings and then we didn’t get another stolen base for the rest of the game.”
The River Rats used a two-out rally to push three runs across the plate in the first inning. Sanford scored the three runs on hits from Connor Marabell (Seminole State) and Tyler Palmer (Oakton Community College) and three College Park errors.
Starting pitcher Conor O’Brien (North Carolina State) was in control to begin the game as well as he recorded five strikeouts in four innings before being relieved by Johnny Garcia (Martin Methodist).
“I thought he threw really well early,” Kelly said. “He hasn’t pitched a lot this spring and maybe that is on me and I should have had him out of there after three. I’ve been watching the other coaches and they are short-leashing their guys. We had talked about what he wanted to do and he wanted to start the fifth and I said no because I thought he had thrown enough pitches.”
Palmer started another two run rally in third by getting on base with a single to center field and quickly stealing second and third base. Palmer now has a team-high four steals in two games. Tyler Lesch (USC Upstate) and Connor Hornsby (St. Mary’s) then walked. Palmer came home to score on a wild pitch.
Marabell kept the River Rats’ offense rolling in the top of the fourth inning by driving in Parker Perez (Seminole State) with an RBI single to left field to put Sanford in front 5-0. The five runs were all the Rats would come up with, though, as AJ Mackey (USC Upstate), Lucas Scocchia (Oakland) and Cody Borup (Tallahassee Community College) limited Sanford to three hits over the final six innings.
The Freedom cut into the River Rats’ advantage with three runs in the bottom half of the fourth as they sent eight batters to plate. They added another run in the fifth with a RBI single from Andres Cancio (Florida Christian) and then took the lead with two more in the sixth with two unearned runs.