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Dinger doesn’t deter Eagles

CHS at FIHS, March 31

By Ray Dimonda Correspondent
Posted 3/30/23

FLEMING ISLAND - The 8-3 Tallahassee Leon Lions came roaring into the stadium at Fleming Island with a first batter, fourth pitch of the game out of the park home run to kick things off for the …

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Dinger doesn’t deter Eagles

CHS at FIHS, March 31


FLEMING ISLAND - The 8-3 Tallahassee Leon Lions came roaring into the stadium at Fleming Island with a first batter, fourth pitch of the game out of the park home run to kick things off for the Saturday matinee. The Golden Eagles closed the inning and went to work in the batter’’s box to put up a couple quick runs of their own. Fleming Island went on to have a steamroller second inning with seven more runs on their way to bounce back from Thursday’s 2-0 shutout loss to Sandalwood, notching the 10th victory of the 2023 season with a 12-2 victory in five innings, shortened by the 10-run rule.

“After that pitching duel against Sandalwood, we were not taking Leon lightly,” said first year Golden Eagles Head Coach Gil Morales. “We know what they are capable of doing. They can hit, they can swing it. These were tough outs today. The score shows it a little differently, but I think a lot had to do with they gave us a few free passes, some walks and we had to capitalize on that. These guys are good and I have no doubt we’ll see them again.”

In, 2022, both Leon and Fleming Island, under coach Grant Bigilin, were knocked out of the region playoffs in quarterfinals; Leon by eventually Class 6A champion Tallahassee Chiles. Fleming Island was Class 6A runnerup in 2021.

After a hard fought battle against Sandalwood, the last thing the Golden Eagles wanted to see was a fence clearing drive to left field by the Lions first batter. It may have been that proverbial slap in the face that put a chip on the teams collective shoulder and unleashed a Lion inside the Golden Eagle dugout.

Down 1-0 before they could go to bat the first time, Fleming Island went to work on putting some numbers on the board quickly with Josh Murray starting things off with a left field line drive double. With one out, Abram Summers walked. With Jackson Mercer at bat, the Lions miscued on a pickoff attempt at second to score Murray, 1-1. Mercer walked putting runners on first and second. Miguel Cruz came in as a courtesy runner for Mercer and came around to score on a passed ball, 2-1.

After another good defensive inning with only one runner allowed on, the Golden Eagles took the second inning bulldozer out of the shed and just went to town on the Lions chalking up seven runs by Ben Abram, Shea Thistleton, Kaden Ahearn, Tanner Upton, Summers, Cruz, and Gavin Billingsley to take the lead 9-1. Leon would commit an error, five walks, and hit one Golden Eagle batter in the single inning. “Now they are believing they are relevant. Once you get into April, the boys can see we have a shot to get into the playoffs. That is our number one goal is to get into the playoffs.”

In the top of the third, the Lions came away empty handed as Leon could produce no more than two runners on base. In the bottom of the third, with Murray on first, Upton singled on a bunt. During the play, the throw to first sailed, notching Upton an RBI triple bunt which scored Murray, 10-1. Upton would cross the plate with another Leon passed ball, 11-1.

In the fourth inning, Leon looked like their luck was changing after their first batter was hit by a ball. The Golden Eagles took the lemons and made lemonade by nailing a double play on the next batter. Leon flied out to finish their at-bat and turn things back over to the Golden Eagles. Abram singled with a shot missed by the short stop, moved to second with a Thistleton walk, and made the trip around with a Murray RBI single, 12-1. Leon would get one more around with two outs and get shut down with an infield grounder defended by Fleming Island to close down play, 12-2 in five innings.

“We have to continue to do what we do well. Keep working on our pitching, and our defense,” said Morales. “The timely hits, battling, better at-bats, working the counts on the hitting side, fighting better with two strikes, these are all the things we have to work on. We have a tough week coming up with four games, all good teams. The number one thing is keeping these guys focused on one game at a time.”

Fleming Island, who lost to Providence 5-1 on February 24, ripped off seven wins; one a 2-1 over 7A-Spruce Creek (6A region semifinals), one a 3-2 over Buchholz, before the Sandalwood loss and the Leon win

In a monster game set for Fri., March 31; Clay at Fleming Island, the Blue Devils have been winning games, but have also been in closer games than coach Josh Persinger would like to be in.

After a strong 6-2 win over then-unbeaten Oakleaf after Oakleaf led 2-0 to the fifth inning, Clay scored just a first inning homer to beat Arnold, then got walked off by a homer in the seventh inning to Bartram Trail, 4-2, with a 2-1 lead. In that fateful seventh, with pitcher Nick Ranck on the mound, Bartram Trail got a single and a bunt to set up their three run homer.

Clay, with zero errors on the field, reignited the bats with a 9-0 win over Ponte Vedra behind 11 hits and homers from Easton McMahan and Austin Szala.

Against an always surprising Middleburg team with just one win, Clay had to fight into the sixth inning before defeating the raspy Broncos.

Middleburg to 11 hits off the Blue Devil pitching staff including a five run third inning that put the Broncos up 5-1. The Broncos hit four singles; Logan Alessi, Nathan Austin, Skylar Gray and Jacob Baxley to start the barrage. Baxler single scored two runs before Austin Larson, Bradley Gilbert and Hayden Bradshaw all singled in runs.

Clay jumped back into the rumble with a run scoring double and a run scoring single from Cole Carnell and Merrick Rapoza.

Clay has games before Fleming Island against Trinity Christian and a much-improved Orange Park team (5-7) that is going througn a seven game losing streak after starting the season 5-1.