FLEMING ISLAND – A leadoff homer by Aiden Mastantuno in the fifth inning was the difference for a second district baseball title as Fleming Island defeated Atlantic Coast 3-2 to win the district 2-8A title on Friday at Fleming Island High School.
The win puts the Golden Eagles, with second year coach Grant Bigilin, in the region playoffs where last year the team got to the region final before succumbing on a late inning double to Strawberry Crest High School.
Atlantic Coast came to Fleming Island intent on the upset having lost a 1-0 game to Fleming Island earlier in the year and the Stingrays quickly put baserunners in play with a first and third situation in the first inning. A suicide bunt got mashed by Fleming Island catcher Jack Gidcumb.
“That really stopped their momentum and looking back, had a huge impact” said Gidcumb. “There was nothing they could do with us- honestly. We had a shutdown defense and that was it. That was it.”
Fleming Island and Atlantic Coast both advance with the Golden Eagles set to host Tallhassee Chiles on Tues., May 14 and Atlantic Coast traveling to Tallahassee Lincoln.
Fleming Island went up 2-0 first with Fleming Island batter Zack Mercer driving a line drive to center to get on base, then stealing second base on a wild Stingray pitch. With a 3-1 count, Justin Hawkins put the ball on the ground in left field scoring Mercer, 1-0.
In the second inning with one out, Mastantuno walked then gave up the running duties to Jacob Barnard. Barnard moved to second on another Stingray wild pitch to Gidcumb. With a 3-0 count, Gidcumb singled on a grounder to the shortstop. During the play, Barnard took off for home and scored, 2-0.
When Atlantic Coast came back to bat in the top of the third, back-to-back errors by Fleming Island allowed the Stingrays right back in the game, 2-2.
The game remained tied until Aiden Mastantuno came to the plate in the bottom of the fifth and took the first pitch out of the park in right-center field for a lead off home run. With the score 3-2, Fleming Island played lights out defense for the last two innings, closing the books on the regular season with back-to-back district titles.
Mastantuno finished the night on the mound with three strikeouts. “My curveball wasn’t really working tonight, but my defense made all the plays behind me and I just tried to pitch strikes” said Mastantuno. “Toward the end, I knew they wouldn’t swing until I threw a strike on them, so I just put it on my defense and they made the plays. Drew made one of the best catches I saw all year.”
The play Aiden was referring to was late in the game, a deep shot to left-center field was in the gap. Drew Homitz came across from his position in center field, laid it out, and made a clutch catch that deflated the Stingrays.
“I didn’t execute at the plate tonight, so I had to execute in the field” said Homitz. “I had to do something for my team and told myself I am not letting that ball drop. As soon as I had it at eye level, I dove and came up with the ball in my glove.”
Relief Pitcher Jacob Asdot came to the mound and threw six straight strikes to the last two batters as the Stingrays tried everything in their power to connect, but to no avail.