FLEMING ISLAND - Five weeks ago against the Creekside High Knights on the same home field, Fleming Island High baseball had a sneak preview to what it would take to bring home the third district 3-6A …
FLEMING ISLAND - Five weeks ago against the Creekside High Knights on the same home field, Fleming Island High baseball had a sneak preview to what it would take to bring home the third district 3-6A championship as Fleming Island won that contest 2-1.
“We have a day before a game routine for practice. We really ramped it up yesterday,” said Fleming Island coach Grant Bigilin, after his Golden Eagles baseball defense, led by senior catch Jack Gidcumb, successfully fended off a bases loaded late inning collision to beat Creekside 4-3 to secure the district trophy. “We knew they would bunt and run. It seemed to pay off.”
In other baseball district finals, St. Johns Country Day School had a bombardment of sorts with five homers, including a Connor Moore grand slammer, leading the Spartans to an 18-0 semifinal win in district 3-2A, then doubled down with three more in the final; a 12-1 win over University Christian (See Mike Zima story).
In district 3-5A, the surging Middleburg High Broncos (11-15) with preliminary wins over Robert E. Lee (13-3) and Terry Parker (4-1 in 9 innings) gave up nine runs in the first two innings then came back close behind three runs batted in by Logan Baxley, but not close enough in a 13-9 championship loss to Stanton Prep.
In Baldwin, Keystone Heights (15-12) punched up with an 11-0 win over P.K. Yonge (17-7) with a six run third inning and shutout pitching from Moreland Mike before Guy Connor hit a walk-off single with two baserunners; Packham Chase (hit by pitch) and Miller Jeremy (singled), to score the Indians with a 6-5 district 3-3A championship win over Baldwin (14-14). Baldwin, the fourth seed, upset top seed Trinity Christian 3-1 in the semifinal to get to Keystone Heights in the final.
Region 1-6A: Lyman (6-17) at Fleming Island (21-5), Fri., May 7. Opposite bracket: Creekside (15-11) at Winter Springs (13-13)
Region 1-5A: Middleburg (11-14) at Ponte Vedra (11-15), Thurs., May 6. Opposite bracket: Pine Ridge (8-13) at Stanton (16-12)
Region 1-3A: Episcopal (20-6) at Keystone Heights (15-12), Thurs., May 6. Opposite bracket: Baldwin (14-14) at Bolles (22-4)
Region 1-2A: Trinity Christian Academy (Deltona) (3-15) at St. Johns Country Day School (20-6), Fri., May 7. Opposite bracket: Wakulla Christian (12-4) at Aucilla Christian (16-8)
For Fleming Island, after two innings, it was 2-2, and the Golden Eagles were leaving cash on the table with already abandoning five runners still on base.
“It’s something we preach, leaving runners on base,” said Bigilin. “If you have runners on base, you are doing something right, but you have to score them.”
It was just a matter of time before the runners on would finally pay off in the fourth and fifth inning to put the team up 4-2, and then lean as hard as they could on that preparation, as it cashed in, in the sixth inning.
After Creekside loaded the bases with one out in the sixth with intention on an upset, the situation practice was gold.
With a bunt to the pitcher Isaac Williams, the play to first was made, and the bench erupted with screams of “Four” as the runner at third tagged up and took off for home.
“I saw Isaac throw the ball to first, I looked and saw him coming,” said Gidcumb. “I looked to first base, saw the ball coming to me and that was it. I had it and that was it. He was out.”
First Baseman Justin Lebesch threw a dart to Gidcumb, who took the runner on body to body to tag him, hold onto the ball, and get out three to snuff out the inning.
“I didn’t know if I lost the ball. It jammed my hand as he slid in to me,” said Gidcumb. “After it was over, I showed him the ball- it was awesome.”
The play turned out to be the play of the game as the Golden Eagles and Knights could not score anymore runs as Fleming Island took the 4-3 win and their third District Championship into the State Playoffs.
Gidcumb continued to produce at the plate as well getting on base all three times with two hits and a walk with junior Justin Corfield pinch run for his Catcher, which would pay off hugely late in the game.
In the fourth, with one out, Gavin Billingsley made it over to third base thanks to a passed ball, then crossed the plate off a Justin Lebesch line drive to left field, 3-2, but again runners left on base.
In the bottom of the fifth, Gidcomb led off, and again took what Creekside teed up for him.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m just glad my teammates followed me up. I got on base for them and they drove them in. I just thought, I’ll take what he gives me and he threw a good pitch inside. I got the barrel to it and it went,” said Gidcumb.”
Corfield took over for Gidcumb on the basepaths and made the magic happen with a steal into second, and then a pitch later, into third, where the Knights made a critical error. As the Creekside catcher saw Corfield bolt for third, he launched a cannon shot that misfired, went wide of the third baseman, and as Corfield slid, looked up, heard everyone screaming and took off for home, bagging what turned into the game winning run.
“We went after it” said Bigilin. “We threw all our arms but one, and if that was the way we went out, that was it. We found a way to hang in there. It was impressive.”