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Playoffs looming; Devils go yard on Eagles

By Ray DiMonda Correspondent
Posted 4/20/22

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - As the legend continues with cross-town rivals, the Fleming Island Golden Eagles looked poised to make it a run to the wire as they had their rivalry game with Clay High tied at …

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Playoffs looming; Devils go yard on Eagles


GREEN COVE SPRINGS - As the legend continues with cross-town rivals, the Fleming Island Golden Eagles looked poised to make it a run to the wire as they had their rivalry game with Clay High tied at 2-2 at the top of the fifth inning. That was until the host Blue Devil’s bats sprang to life with a Jayden Long RBI deep center out of the park rocket ship home run, pushing Logan Wilson around to go ahead 4-2.

“This is one of the biggest teams I ever had,” said Clay High Head Coach Josh Persinger. “Since this group’s freshman year, it is a priority year-round, they are hitting the weights. I really think that has the most to do with this.”

In the next inning, not wanting Wilson to be all alone in the spotlight, Tyler Mills went yard into right field to bring Brady Greene home for a back-to-back pair of RBI homers for the Blue Devils, sending Fleming Island home 6-2.

“What’s crazy is since I took this team over, the most home runs we had on a season is six or seven,” said Persinger. “The 2014 team that went to state, almost half went on to play division one ball and some on to pros, they hit 10. Tonight that was 15 and 16. I’ve never been part of a part of a high school program that did that.”

The Golden Eagles, last year’s Class 6A runnerup and somewhat erratic on the basepaths to home plate, just couldn’t get any mojo at all going in the first several innings.

For the Blue Devils, who were ousted in shocking fashion by Baker County in their district semifinal last year, it was building a wall one brick at a time with a single run in the bottom of the first inning as Conner Chapman courtesy ran for Dylan Greene, who walked and starting things off for Clay. After one out, Chapman took advantage of an Isaac Williams passed ball to make it to second.

On a 3-1 count, Chapman stole 3rd base. Wilson grounded to the shortstop, who threw home. With the ball at the plate, Wilson took off for second base. With a Golden Eagle error at second, Chapman bolted for home to put Clay ahead early 1-0. After the excitement of the first inning, in the next inning, both teams did no better than a single runner on base before being retired.

Back at bat in the bottom of the third, Clay’s Dylan Greene’s club stayed hot as he nailed a line drive to center for a double, getting Clay a runner in scoring position with only one out. Again, enter Chapman to run for Greene. Max Williams walked in four pitches putting runners at first and second base. On a wild pitch, Chapman moved to third, setting the stage for another score. Logan Wilson obliged with a grounder to left field to cross Chapman over home, 2-0 Blue Devils.

The rivals continued to joust for two innings to the top of the fifth. The first Golden Eagle batter, Caleb Simmons got things rolling for Fleming Island with a left field line drive. With one out, Justin Corfield hit a grounder, looking like an easy out, but made it onboard with a Clay error which also allowed Simmons to make his way to third base.

“We are both struggling,” said Golden Eagle Head Coach Grant Bigilin. “They seem to not be struggling as bad as we are but having their issues; a county rivalry to finish up where we are at in the season; and this is a tough place to play. If you don’t bring it for seven innings, you’re not going to come out of here with a win.”

An untimely walk loaded the based as Gavin Billingsley only needed four pitches, still with only one out. On a 3-2 count, Abram Summers grounds into what should have been an easy fielder’s choice. Simmons took off for home and crossed the plate, 2-1. During the play, Clay made an untimely error at second base, allowing Corfield to sneak in the back door, 2-2 tied game.

Asked about getting passed the mid-game error and stay focused on the win, Persinger said “We’re going to get punched. We know it, so you get punched and you just get back up. It’s going to happen. You say- okay that didn’t work, so let’s try this again. We just keep getting back up. That’s the mentality. You’d like to not get punched, but this is high school sports, so that’s the reality. You have to be mentally tough.” The Blue Devils stopped the bleeding with runners still on, but the damage was done with the game now tied, 2-2.

With Clay back in the batter’s box, two quick outs made it look like the inning would pass by with no action. Logan Wilson said not so fast as he walked to bring up Jayden Long who went out of the park, 4-2.

Back on the field, it was all Clay defense as three Fleming Island batters would all go back to the dugout empty handed. Back to work in the business office, and almost like a rewind of the fifth inning, Brady Greene walked, and lefty Tyler Mills launched a scud over the right field fence, 6-2.

The Blue Devil’s defensive focus stayed razor sharp as once again, they saw three batters come up, and get retired without a hit to close out the last time the seniors would battle each other on the diamond with the Blue Devils taking home the 2022 bragging rights for the rivalry, 6-2.