Blue Devils’ defense rides early lead to win

By Randy Lefko
Posted 4/3/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay High held a first inning 3-0 lead to the end of seven strong defensive innings to take a 3-2 win over rival Baker County Wed., March 27. Baker County, a former 6A rival to …

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Blue Devils’ defense rides early lead to win

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay High held a first inning 3-0 lead to the end of seven strong defensive innings to take a 3-2 win over rival Baker County Wed., March 27. Baker County, a former 6A rival to Clay now a 5A team, had beaten Clay 1-0 in the first game played on Tues., March 26 after scoring the solo run in the third inning.

“We had some critical errors and didn’t get the hits to score runs because their pitcher was in her zone,” said Clay coach Matt Lewis, now 9-5 with a 4-0 slate in district 4-6A. “I challenged the girls to play out of their comfort zone for this one and you saw some girls diving and hustling to make plays tonight. We had solid defense and solid pitching tonight.”

Baker County pitcher Madison Lagle struck out 11 in game one while game two starter Taylor Crews gave up four hits and three runs in game two. Lagle came in to relieve in game two and pulled five strikeouts in two innings. Baker County falls to 12-4, 1-0 in district 3-5A.

In game two, with Clay pitcher Morgan Crutcher controlling the mound with seven strikeouts, Clay got on the scoreboard early behind three singles; Marianne McDonald, Ali Sarman and Morgan Silvis that set up a Dakota Worley two run single and a Sydney Lewis sacrifice bunt to get the early jump on the Wildcats.

“If we put the ball in play and get baserunners, we can score,” said Lewis. “We don’t have the power hitters we’ve had in the past so we have to be smart baserunners.”

Up 2-0 and with Worley sitting at third base, Delaney Anfinson hit a grounder to third base that got bobbled and got Worley in for run three.

Baker County’s championship pedigree emerged in the ensuing inning with the Wildcats testing the Blue Devil defense after Crutcher got two flyouts; one a whistling line drive to the glove of Clay third baseman Madison Alexander, the other a running snag by Clay second baseman Ali Sarman.

“That one went right off the wrist (Alexander), but she held on to it,” said Lewis. “That had to hurt, but she’s tough.”

Baker County kept the pressure on with a floater over first base, a walk and steal of second base and Crutcher hitting a batter loading the bases.

A second diving stab by

Sarman was unsuccessful and allowed two runs to score, but Crutcher got a grounder right back to Sarman to close the inning.

“I don’t mind a play like that because she laid out trying to get a ball that was just off her glove,” said Lewis. “We’ll get a few of those in big games. We are working on our range and telling the girls to go for balls like that.”

From there, both pitchers handled their respective batting lineups with Kylee Stacy getting to second and Baker County getting one baserunner to second also the best both teams could advance.

Crutcher and Lagle staged a strike out mano-a-mano duel with both pitchers dominating with a 10-strikeout showdown; five apiece in the final two innings, to end the game.

Clay has a non-district away game with Oakleaf (13-1) on Tues., April 2 and a rescheduled district 4-6A match with Ridgeview (10-6, 2-2) on Wed., April 3.

Ridgeview returns to action after ending March with a 2-2 slate at the Leopard Slam Tournament in Hernando County with wins over 6A-Springstead a region semifinalist (3-2) and Wiregrass Ranch (6-0) and losses to Tampa Sickles (4-1) and George Steinbrenner (2-1). The Panthers got back in the ‘W’ column with an 11-1 win over Nease and a 3-0 win over 5A runnerup West Nassau. Orange Park upended the Panthers 2-1 on March 29 with Middleburg set for April 2 at Ridgeview High.

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