Fast start fuels Panthers home opener win

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ORANGE PARK - The Ridgeview High Panthers baseball team wasted no time in building a lead in the second inning, then never looking back as the Panthers extinguished the St. Joseph Academy Flashes, 6-2, on a cold, blustery Friday in Orange Park.

The St. Joseph Academy Flashes came into the Jungle at Ridgeview with a little spring in their step as they were coming off a four inning 15-0 win just four days prior. Ridgeview was rebounding from a tough 3-2 loss to Bartram Trail via a walk-off single in the eighth inning in their season opener on Tues., Feb. 18.

“I really liked the way we adjusted at the plate tonight,” said Panther coach John Sgromolo. “Early in the pre-season we were struggling on adjusting at the plate, but I think tonight we did a really good job making mid-pitch adjustments. That’s what it’s going to take against a quality schedule like we play this year.”

The Flashes made their own road much harder to travel with six errors on the night as the Panthers committed only a single error behind Jayden Long, who went five innings, and was closed out by Nomar Almanzar.

“I loved Jayden’s intensity tonight,” said Sgromolo. “He’s only a sophomore, yet he understood the magnitude of two strike pitches and has a heavy fast ball. That’s his second quality outing from him and we’ll need more performances like that.”

After both teams went three up, three out, The Flashes left a runner on with nothing to show for the

effort. The Panthers came back to bat and got things warmed up with a walk to Richard Long. With Kyle Richards at bat, Long took advantage of a wild pitch to reach third base. Then Richards had another wild

pitch on strike three that allowed him to make it to first, and score Long, 1-0. Richards made his way to second on another error by the first baseman.

“I love this group of kids,” said Sgromolo. “They are tough, they are hardnosed, they play the game the right way, and they are respectful.”

Next up, McFarland dinked an RBI single to center field, scoring courtesy runner Avanti Anderson, 2-0.

The Flashes finally sparked enough and halted the rally, but the Panthers were off to an early two run lead.

In the bottom of the third, the Panthers poured on more fuel to the fire scoring Ryan Dickey off a Max Williams triple, 3-0. After a Richard Long walk, Williams would score off an RBI single from Jayden Long, 4-0.

The Panthers next travel to Bolles to take on the Bulldogs Tuesday which tops a four game road trip for the Panthers before they return to the Jungle to take on the Middleburg High Broncos.

“Next week is huge,” said Sgromolo. “With the new playoff system, every game has that impact. Even games that you would not think are going to be that good, has that playoff vibe, so to speak, because you never know the one game that could keep you out of the playoffs.”

Clay holds off Indians

Clay High opened with wins over Keystone Heights, 4-2, and Baker County, 4-1, in the first week of the season with the Blue Devils showing off timely hitting and tough pitching.

Against Keystone Heights, Clay grabbed two first inning runs off an RBI single by Chase Holman and an RBI grounder from Logan Wilson, but went scoreless to Keystone Heights pitcher Garfield Johns who had three strikeouts in the first two innings. Keystone Heights got a run in the second off a walk and two grounders with Chase Mattox getting Johns in from second base on a fielder’s choice. Keystone Heights tied the game in the third off an error and single to Moreland Mike to score Andrew Cox.

An error in the fifth gave Clay the lead after a single and walk before Mike closed the inning with three strikeouts.

Against Baker County, Clay again struck for two first inning runs off a Logan Wilson 2RBI single with two more in the fifth off a walk and three singles for the win. Mason Barrett laid down a scoring bunt and Brandon Adams hit a grounder for two runs. Adams went five innings with five strikeouts and the one run for the Blue Devils.

Clay was set to play Oakleaf on Mon., Feb. 24 at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds before hosting Baldwin on Tues., Feb. 25 and St. Johns Country Day School on Thurs., Feb. 27.

Spartans blast Stanton prep; Hodges, Taylor homers

St. Johns Country Day School blasted for five first inning runs off opportunistic baserunning and added homers from Brad Hodges and Jordan Taylor to crush Stanton Prep 14-7 in a Saturday night home opener on the St. Johns campus.

Taylor, who started on the mound with three strikeouts in the first inning, nearly hit his first homer of the year with a long fly ball to centerfield in the first inning, but the ball was caught at the fence. The flyball did allow one run to score; Finn Howell, who was on base after being hit by a pitch. Two walks set up Taylor RBI with J Oman grounding out scoring a second Spartan run. Luke Shannahan doubles to push the score to 5-0.

St. Johns will have a gauntlet week with a home game against Fleming Island on Tues., Feb. 25, at Clay on Thurs., Feb. 27 and at Bolles on Fri., Feb. 28.

Oakleaf dimes Raiders in

opener; Knights 4-0

Oakleaf High opened their baseball season with a 10-0 win over Orange Park then proceeded to halt University Christian, 10-2, and Fernandina Beach, 4-3, in an energetic season opening win.

Note: In a Monday night game (Feb. 24) at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds, Oakleaf got an RBI single from Dalton Holland in the seventh inning to edge Clay, 3-2.

The Knights have been crushing the baseball with 15 hits in 47 at bats (.319 team batting average) to start the season led by three batters; Dalton Holland, Leo Diaz and Luis Torres hitting for two RBIs apiece.

Against Orange Park, the Knights scored nine runs in the first four innings to walk away with the win. Simon Kohn doubled in the first, 2-0; then hit an RBI single in the second with bases loaded with Diaz doubling in the fourth for two RBIs. Davion Hickson pitched four innings with four strikeouts to get the win.

Against University Christian, Oakleaf exploded to a 7-0 lead in the fourth off a walk to Jayden Rivera, a single to Diaz and an RBI double to Torres. Kohn hit an RBI single that also loaded the bases with Maddox and Holland both getting walked for two runs, 7-0.

Against Fernandina Beach, with the score tied at 3-3 in the fifth, Oakleaf got Torres on base with a single with a grounder from Wooten putting Torres at third. P Smith singled in Torres for the gamewinner. Pitcher Landen Wooten, the gamewinner with six strikeouts, closed the game with three strikeouts in the sixth with Dannon Smith knocking out three strikeouts in the seventh.

Oakleaf travels to the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds to play Clay on Mon., Feb. 24 with a home game against Middleburg on Tues., Feb. 25 and a Thurs., Feb. 27 game against Nease.

Fleming Island opens with 3-0 over Paxon

A pitcher’s dual against Paxon High ended with the Fleming Island Golden Eagles baseball team getting two runs in the seventh to win 3-0 in their season opener in Jacksonville.

With just eight hits in 49 at bats between both teams, Fleming Island got eight strikeouts from Aiden Mastantuno while Paxon starter Jackson Durant issued nine strikeouts to the Fleming Island batting lineup.

Fleming Island pushed their 1-0 lead to 3-0 behind a double by Drew Homitz in the seventh that came after Justin Lebesch reached first on an error at second base. Divine Valle’s sacrifice fly scored Lebesch while an error scored Homitz for the 3-0 lead.

Fleming Island heads to St. Johns Country Day School on Tues., Feb. 25 then back home to play Ridgeview on Fri., Feb. 28.

Middleburg 8, Bradford 3

Middleburg scores three runs in the fifth, four in the sixth to beat Bradford 8-3 in season opener on Thurs., Feb. 20.

Hunter Conaway blasted nine strikeouts in six innings from the mound for the Broncos.

A slew of walks and errors put three runs on the board for the Broncos.

Samuel Rollins had a double for Middleburg.

The Broncos travel to Oakleaf on Tues., Feb. 25 then head to Orange Park on Thurs., Feb. 28.

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