A wild weekend ended the regular season for the Florida Collegiate Summer League, with Winter Park (28-11) holding on to take the top spot in the playoffs. But a surprise in the early rounds of the postseason has left the regular season runner-up, Sanford (28-13), wondering what happened.
Winter Park and Sanford had been neck and neck the last three weeks of the season as they battled within two games of each other down to the last game of the year.
Going into their final regular season matchup on July 29, the Diamond Dawgs and River Rats were dead even in the standings, knotted at the top while Leesburg (19-23), Orlando (15-25) and DeLand (11-29) trailed more than 10 games behind.
But Winter Park made it look like they were a league above their closest rival, putting a run on the board just three batters into the game, and putting on a hitting clinic for the next eight innings.
In the meantime, the Dawgs' pitching gave up only two runs, as Nick Goody went five innings, giving up four hits to pick up the win in relief.
By the time the dust had settled, the Dawgs were up 10-2, and they were a game ahead of the Rats in the standings.
The first round of the playoffs started this week, and the Dawgs went on a tear, decimating the Orlando Mavericks 10-2 and 8-2. Meanwhile, Sanford dropped two shockers to be eliminated from the playoffs by a team that had never led them all season.
In game one, the Rats fell 3-0 to the third-seed Leesburg Lightning. In the next round of games, they fell 9-8 in an extra innings nail biter that included a three-run comeback in the ninth inning by Sanford, only to be undone by two walks, a hit batsman, and a Nick DelGuidice walk-off single in the bottom of the tenth.
Now Winter Park and Leesburg are scheduled for a showdown at the championship game Thursday night at Tropicana field. Will Leesburg be able to pull off the impossible, or will Winter Park be able to pull off regular season and playoff championships?
Thursday night, we'll find out.