FLEMING ISLAND – Even if it were a chess match, if it’s a Friday night and the Clay Blue Devils are facing off against the Fleming Island Golden Eagles in any matchup, it is a guarantee that the …
FLEMING ISLAND – Even if it were a chess match, if it’s a Friday night and the Clay Blue Devils are facing off against the Fleming Island Golden Eagles in any matchup, it is a guarantee that the fans will be highly entertained.
In the annual baseball rivalry clash held Fri., March 14 at Fleming Island, both teams played a chess match on the pitcher’s mound on an ultra-low scoring, but high intensity duel that waited until the seventh inning to keep everyone holding their breath to witness the outcome. Clay blinked first when Fleming Island drew first blood in the third and fourth at bats with a single run.
“Every run counts. Being up two is great, that means they are coming from behind. But every one we can tack on can really make difference” said Fleming Island Skipper Grant Bigilin. “Good thing we got that extra one because they would have ended up tying it in the seventh and who knows what can happen after that.”
Clay waited until the seventh inning to score their first, load the bases up, and fail to outwit the Golden Eagle defense. As the heart rate of everyone watching would be tested for the duration of the final Clay at bat, the Blue Devils would go down fighting, but come up just short with a 2-1 loss.
Fleming Island pitcher Zack Mercer started for Fleming Island, striking out eight on the night and only giving up three hits and a single run through six innings.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s our ace, he’s a senior committed to Pensacola State and has a great future,” said Bigilin. “He commands all of his pitches well and that’s what helps him. He’s not overpowering but has some life to his fastball and really mixes in breaking balls which ups his pitch count, but ultimately gets him the outs we needed.”
On the Blue Devil side of the field, Dylan Faulkner was the starting hurler going five innings with five strike outs, five hits and gave up the two runs. But it wasn’t the mound that gave the Blue Devils the headaches. It was errors in the field that cost the runs.
Golden Eagle Drew Homitz was safe on first when Clay’s Justin Mosley failed to connect to first base after a hard grounder. Noah McCollum followed suite hitting another grounder to Mosley and again Mosley couldn’t connect. Runners on first and second, no outs. After a fielder’s choice grounder, both runners advance to second and third with one. A pop-up was the second out, bringing Scott Kondroik up with two out, two on. Kondroik slammed a powerful line drive to left field that scored Homitz, 1-0.
Clay stopped the inning on the next batter, but Fleming Island had the upper hand. Clay would counter with two on base, then get shut down. On the next at bats, Fleming’s Dylan Bonham got on with a grounder to left field and would eventually be advanced by a fielder’s choice. Drew Homitz blasted a line drive that ended up just inside the left field fence. Clay’s Garret Chun rifled the ball all the way from left to third baseman Justin Mosley. Bonham made his way from second to score. After the score, the play at third was called out ending the inning, but not before Fleming Island built a 2-0 lead.
Fast forward to the top of the seventh where the score was still locked at 2-0.
Mercer lasted four batters for two outs before his pitch count dictated his pull. Fleming Island sent sophomore closer Aiden Mastantuno to the plate after Clay put the first run over home plate with Nate Lewis and had the tying run at second with Dylan Faulkner.
Mastantuno walked Garret Chun as he was finding his groove. Justin Mosley was safe on first after a Golden Eagle error loaded the bases. Clay’s Chase Holman grounded to Fleming Island shortstop Noah McCollum who made the easy play to second baseman Jacob Asdot for the final out allowing everyone to finally exhale and take in what just happened.
“I feel this game motivates both of us,” said Clay Head Coach Josh Persinger. “They’re going to jump start because of that right there, and I promise you all that right there is going to fire our boys up and get them ready for the rest of the season.”
Clay will head over to Bartram Trail Thursday evening. Fleming Island will take on Tallahassee Chiles Wednesday evening then head to Fernandina Beach for a three-day summer tournament.