Ridgeview- The St. Johns Country Day Spartans took the trip down Blanding Blvd to meet up with the Ridgeview Panthers in the Jungle for a twilight matchup during 20 plus mile per hour winds of the …
Ridgeview- The St. Johns Country Day Spartans took the trip down Blanding Blvd to meet up with the Ridgeview Panthers in the Jungle for a twilight matchup during 20 plus mile per hour winds of the passing Nor’easter and returned home with yet another win; a 3-1 effort, over the Panthers that couples up with the Spartans recent win, also 3-1, over Fleming Island.
“The smallest school in Clay County. We have these games circled,” said Spartan Head Coach Tom Lucas, who coupled the non-district win with a Tuesday 5-0 win over district 2-3A rival St. Joseph. “Whenever you play any of the big Clay public schools, you’re playing playoff-like baseball. I tell them, I’m going to make the schedule as tough as possible. If we go .500 we probably played really well, but you’ll be ready for playoff baseball.”
The expected rains never materialized, but the wind played havoc with the ball, forcing fielders to shuffle constantly.
In the bottom of the third, with a dramatic head first slide, the Panthers got on top early, 1-0.
In their next at bat, the Spartans struck hard with three runs.
St. Johns freshman Finn Howell started on the hill for the Spartans and looked strong all evening, going the distance and allowing only four hits.
“If I keep having pitching performances like Finn gave us tonight, a complete game, we’re going to go a long way,” said Lucas.
After two innings and both teams doing no more than a single runner on base, the top of the third looked like St. Johns would be ready to strike. Off a wild pitch, the Spartans had a runner on third poised to get the first run on the board.
That was until the Panther defense pulled a double play, third base pickoff, extinguishing the effort.
At the bottom of the inning, the Panthers seemed to draw off of that momentum and with one out, bring Calvin Gunsaulus home on an Evan Wickeri ground ball single to left field.
The Panthers retired the inning leaving one on onboard, but the scoreboard was lit up and momentum was rolling, 1-0. “We’ve had a motto, we want to try and score first, but we task offense if somebody scores on us,” said Lucas.
The Panther defense would follow suit, holding the Spartans to two up, two out.
Howell, showing he is not just a good pitcher, singled to center field with a grounder. With Jack Hodges at the plate, a pickoff attempt went awry and Howell took off to second. Hodges walked putting two runners on, two outs.
Enter Tyce Moore with another shot to center field that scored Howell. Next was Jack Tolbert with a right field, line drive two-run triple, bringing the score to 3-1 as the inning ended.
“When they scored, we scored three,” said Lucas. “The guys really take pride in that. Tolbert just hammered it and got it over his head.”
Both teams would battle and get no more than a single runner to the bases until the top of the sixth inning where the Spartans would get runners to first and third before having their hopes dashed.
Ridgeview would take the frustration out on the Orange Park Raiders the next evening with a 9-2 road victory. St. Johns travels to 7A-Creekside (10-1, region finalist last year) on Wed., April 3.