Area baseball finishes off a great summer of play

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ATLANTA - Area baseball players; from most of Clay County’s high school programs, completed a successful summer of baseball at the club level with three teams chocked full of local talent battling in Atlanta at the 2020 Perfect Game Baseball Championship Series. The Perfect Game circuit is a nationwide aged baseball summer league with the championship series considered one of the top three baseball series in the country. Area coaches were Josh Persinger (Clay), Clay Cobras; Grant Bigilin (Fleming Island), Florida Dodgers 2021 Scout Team, and Tom Lucas (St. Johns Country Day School), Florida Dodgers 2022 Scout Team.

“The summer circuit is peppered with big name organizations that give the high school aged kids a place to keep their game sharp and play against the best players in America,” said Clay High coach Josh Persinger, who with assistant coach Travis McQuaig, has fielded the Clay Cobras since 2015. “We have a bunch of mid-level kids who would pay thousands to be on the 17-18 major travel organizations. We decided to keep our young guys together, practice, lift and get better at baseball.”

Persinger returned home in 2020 with a few major games for his summer trophy case including a win over 2021 Florida Dodgers, a team, according to Persinger, peppered with major NCAA Division I commits.

The 2021 Florida Dodgers team, 17-Unders, is coached by Fleming Island High baseball coach Grant Bigilin while St. Johns Country Day School coach Tom Lucas coached the 2022 Florida Dodgers team. Bigilin’s team finished at 15-6 in three tournaments, 17-7 overall for the summer. Lucas’s team, 16-Unders, finished at 15-7-1, and featured players Brad Hodges, Finn Howell and Max Williams. Clay finished at 6-3.

The local players feature such area stalwarts as All-Tournament selections Dylan Dudones and Jack Gidcumb (FIHS), Ryan Dickey, Jayden Long and Richard Long (RHS), Connor Moore, James Oman and Jace Thomas (SJCDS), and Anthony Porazzo and Dannon Smith (OHS). Logan Wilson and Dylan Greene were All-Tournament select for Clay. Oman, Long and Moore have made recent college commitments; Oman to Butler, Long to Jacksonville and Moore to FSU.

For Persinger, with a predominately local roster, the start of the summer featured a win over Lucas’ 2022 Florida Dodgers and a travel date to 2021 Perfect Game BCS.

Led by strong pitching efforts from Steven Reiss, a Flagler College commit; Wilson and Brandon Adams, Clay scraped through their pool division with wins over two major teams, according to Persinger.

“Our first goal was to make the Gold Division,” said Persinger. “Again, just a little team from Green Cove facing true National Ranked teams with players from all over the country. We didn’t play our best baseball, but we scraped, #theclayway, and found a way to win. Our next goal on the event was to make the playoffs.”

After four games, the Cobras found themselves in a win or go home situation against the Florida Pokers with Wilson battling the mound with a 6’-5”, Division I commit and the Cobras grinding out a win and a spot in the Gold Bracket.

In the championship round, the Cobras fell prey to pitching depth after getting a 6-1 early lead and eventually finished third overall.

“We received a pretty nice trophy but the greatest trophy was watching them come together and destroy teams they had no business being in the field with from a pure “talent standpoint,” said Persinger.

Bigilin’s Dodgers started with a sixth of 32 team finish in Auburndale in June (3-1 record), made the Final Four in Fort Myers in the 17-Under BCS National Championship before finishing 3-3 in Atlanta taking second in their six-team pool.

“Great summer overall against some of the top talent in the nation and at least the

southeast,” said Bigilin. “We faced teams stacked with D1 talent: FSU, Miami, Florida, Virginia, Missouri, etc. and won. With a team primarily from Clay county schools, it was impressive and fun to see the boys

who are rivals in the springtime, come together as teammates in the summer having fun, getting better, and winning.”

Statistically, Gidcumb and Dickey led Bigilin’s team with 17 and 15 hits, respectively, with Gidcumb (.354BA) nailing six doubles. Long had five doubles. Dickey, Thomas and Moore all hit triples while Moore bammed three homers. Dickey had one dinger.

On the mound, Dudone pitched 26 innings with 26Ks and just six runs scored against him. Long went 15Ks in 17 innings with Porazzo 13Ks in 14 innings.

Lucas noted that his Dodgers Scout team program features athletes of various ages; 2021, 2022 and 2023.

“Guys like Connor Moore, Brad Hodges and Jordan Taylor are turning heads across country and attracting MLB scouts at every game,” said Lucas. “Brad Hodges was recently clocked up to 91 mph and now ranked as top 100 players in the country by Perfect Game. Jordan Taylor is ranked 44th now in the country after great performance at PG Junior Nationals. He ran 6.4 60 and threw 94 mph from outfield.”

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