Howell, Hodges blasts fuel Spartans comeback win

By Ray DiMonda Correspondent
Posted 4/27/22

Orange Park- Stealing a page from the school’s drama department, the St. Johns Country Day Spartans baseball team cranked up the intensity meter to full blast and ripped the knob off in their …

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Howell, Hodges blasts fuel Spartans comeback win


Orange Park- Stealing a page from the school’s drama department, the St. Johns Country Day Spartans baseball team cranked up the intensity meter to full blast and ripped the knob off in their battle against visiting class 7A powerhouse Bartram Bears as they pulled off a walk-off come-from-behind bottom of the seventh inning victory.

“I aged right there. I’m 50 come September, but I feel about 60 right now,” said St. Johns Head Coach Tom Lucas, now 18-2 overall and ranked 14th in USA, third in Florida and first in Class 2A. “There was no panic, we were chasing one, we have six outs to do it, and I have a lot of confidence in this group.”

Late in the game, the Bears pulled ahead by one run, 4-3 as the Bears James DeLamielleure went yard on the Spartans. The Spartans closed the inning without any further damage, then went to work on the Bears. With two outs and a 1-1 count, like a cannon, Brad Hodges shot one out of the park in right field to tie the game up 4-4.

“If he’s not player of the year for the state of Florida, I don’t know who is,” said Lucas. “I mean he has just done that kind of stuff all year. What he does on the mound, and then to come up in that situation and hit that ball a long way.”

And what a way it was. Even with the Spartans smaller field, the ball cleared over the soccer field snack bar. “That’s going to leave the Jumbo Shrimp Stadium.”

The Bears could do no better than a single runner on in their last at-bat as the Spartan defense shut things down. With three outs to determine if they were going into an overtime game, the Spartans loaded the bases with two outs. With all the pressure on him, Kellen Brown with a 2-1 count, drove a scorcher down the third base line to Bears Kolt Myers. Myers, having handling issues all evening, again fumbled the ball just enough to slow his throw to second base, allowing all the base runners to advance safely as Kody Daneault crossed to plate, walking off the field after closing down the Bears 5-4.

The 16-7 Bears were riding a four game win streak coming into the matchup with the last two against Bolles and Providence. Lining up competition for the season, Lucas knew what he was asking for.

“I was concerned when I scheduled them,” said Lucas. “That’s a really good team. Hats off to them. They have probably what is the best lineup top to bottom. They just have a lot of dudes that can hit it. But we had a really good guy that we started tonight that held them down. (Pitcher Brad Hodges)”

The Spartans got the ball rolling right out of the box as Daneault scored Hodges on a line drive to left field to go ahead 1-0 in the first inning. The Spartan defense lead by Brad Hodges on the hill, shut things down for the Bears the next two innings. Hodges would last five innings, giving up three runs off of three hits, one walk, and nine strikeouts.

Back in the office in the bottom of the third, the first batter up, Finn Howell, launched a rocket over the fence on left field to get the Spartans in front 2-0. The Bears countered in the top of the fourth with a single run and were shut down by the Spartan defense, 2-1. Just as the Bears got some momentum building, those smoldering embers had water thrown all over them in the top of the fifth as Jordan Taylor hauled the mail from center field to snatch a short fly ball for the out, then rocket the throw to first base to catch the Bears runner who left thinking the ball would drop, ending the inning on a double play. In the bottom of the inning, Howell was brought home with a Shawn Andrade bunt to get ahead 3-1.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Bears finally struck gold, with two runners on from a Hodges walk and a dropped ball on the third strike, Bears DeLamielleure went over the left field fence to finally go ahead 4-3. The defense held in the top of the seventh inning, putting St. Johns back into the driver’s seat for the final chapter to close the game out on the walk off fielder’s choice, 5-4.

“This wasn’t a perfect game. We gave up one unearned run and the pitchers missed some spots. Bunting, we were terrible on sacrifice bunts today, so these will all be points of emphasis. Not perfect, but they keep competing. These games right here test the team and get them ready for playoff baseball.”


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