JACKSONVILLE - Clay High’s Chase Holman’s run-scoring double broke a sixth inning tie, making a winner out of Blue Devil pitcher Dylan Faulkner as visiting Clay edged Bolles 2-1 in a non-district game on March 28 in Jacksonville.
Faulkner fired a three-hitter to end the Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak, besting Bolles’ Patrick Libby in a battle of aces. Libby, who entered the game with an earned run average of 0.33, is headed to Furman on a scholarship in the fall.
“He’s our number one,” Clay coach Josh Persinger said of Faulkner, who will pitch for Tallahassee Community College next year. “He goes toe-to-toe with Division I arms, and I think he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder.”
The senior lefthander threw an 86 mile per hour fastball, a changeup and a knee-buckling curve ball, striking out nine and walking only two.
Though Clay left a runner on third base in the second and fourth innings, it was the Bulldogs who scored first when Jackson Mayo walked, stole second and scored on a single to left center field by catcher Cal Henrichsen in the bottom of the fourth.
The Blue Devils tied the game in the fifth inning thanks to some small ball strategy by Persinger. After shortstop Colin Gross singled, Persinger had Nate Lewis and Faulkner bunt, moving Gross to third base with two out for Blake Parker, the Blue Devils’ number nine hitter. The sophomore justified Persinger’s faith by grounding a Libby fastball sharply up the middle, scoring Gross.
“I always trust him [Parker],” Persinger said of his second baseman. “He has always been the big dog on travel teams and on j.v.”
After Parker made his second diving catch of the game to end the bottom of the fifth, Clay took the lead in the sixth when Justin Mosley led off with a sharp single to center field, and Holman followed with a line drive down the left field line. It was Holman’s second double of the game.
Faulkner took care of the rest, inducing Bulldogs designated hitter Connor Stoll to hit into a fielder’s choice to strand a runner at third in the sixth and retiring the Bulldogs in order in the seventh.
The game had a playoff atmosphere, pitting the Blue Devils, a Class 6A semifinalist last year, against a Bolles program that had won the Class 5A title in 2016 and 2017 and had been the state runner-up in 2018. The Bulldogs were coming off a four-game sweep of their opponents in the Florida League Invitational in Sanford, Florida in which they allowed only two runs in four games.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs, and we schedule playoff contenders so we can be prepared,” said Persinger. “We have probably seen four or five Division I arms [pitchers] already.
Gross and Garrett Chun had two hits for the Blue Devils, who improved to 8-4 and will host Middleburg in their next game Monday, April 1.
Bolles falls to 10-3.