Spartans headed for region final

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 5/18/22

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School senior pitcher Brad Hodges excelled on the mound and at the plate as host St. Johns Country Day School pulled away for a 12-5 victory over Trinity Christian …

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Spartans headed for region final

Posted

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School senior pitcher Brad Hodges excelled on the mound and at the plate as host St. Johns Country Day School pulled away for a 12-5 victory over Trinity Christian Academy in a Class 2A regional semifinal on Sat., May 14 at St. Johns.

The Spartans, now 23-4 and the defending Class 2A runnerup, will host Tallahassee North Florida Christian (20-5) in the regional final on Tues., May 17 at 7:00 p.m.

Hodges, the winning pitcher against the Conquerors for a third time this year, allowed three runs over five and two thirds innings, fanning nine and walking two. All three runs scored on a single hit, a home run by the Conquerors’ Noah Couch.

“Really good,” SJCD head coach Tom Lucas said of Hodges’ pitching performance. “He has a fastball, curveball, slider and a changeup, and he was able to throw all four pitches for strikes tonight.”

Hodges, who is committed to play at Virginia next spring, also did considerable damage as a hitter. Batting leadoff, the senior reached base in all five of his plate appearances, going two for two with two walks, one hit by pitcher, three runs scored and two runs batted in.

“He has actually now gone to an elite level at the plate,” Lucas said. “He had a phenomenal day.”

Hodges has already set a SJCD record for hits in a season.

There was considerable drama for a game that ended with a seven-run margin. The Spartans seized control early on a two-run single by Tyce Moore in the first inning that scored Hodges and Jordan Taylor and added another run in the second on Finn Howell’s base hit. After Couch tied the game at three with a towering drive in the top of the third, SJCD retook the lead in the bottom half without the benefit of a hit. Walks drawn by Vic Patel and Shawn Andrade were followed by an errant pickoff attempt by Conquerors catcher Eric Fouraker that allowed Patel to score from second base.

Taylor, an FSU commit, greeted Trinity Christian reliever Landen Moore with a two-run blast in the fourth inning to push the Spartans’ lead to 6-3. But the Conquerors fought back, loading the bases with no outs against Hodges in the fifth inning. After Hodges struck out Logan Dantzler, Spartans catcher George Gilson made a huge play when he chased down a wild pitch near the backstop and raced back to home plate to tag out a sliding Fouraker for the second out. Hodges reached his FHSAA-mandated 105-pitch limit by walking the next batter to reload the bases, so Lucas turned to sophomore Trevor Bradley to get the Spartans out of the jam.

Bradley, a sidearming right-hander, struck out pinch hitter Isaac Newman on three pitches, the last one a slider in the dirt, to preserve the lead.

“It was a huge moment,” Lucas said of Bradley’s strikeout. “It is a good combination to start with Brad, a lefty with velocity, and then go to a righty whose motion is a little funky. Trevor got us out of it, which he has done for us the last half of the season.”

The Spartans put the game away with a six-run sixth inning, sending 11 batters to the plate against Trinity reliever Brayden Harris. Hodges led off the inning with a walk and a stolen base and capped it with a base hit that drove in two runners.

SJCD benefitted from seven walks. In five of their six half innings, their leadoff hitter either walked or was hit by a pitch. Each time, the runner scored.

“Trinity came in with a game plan of trying to make us chase,” said Lucas. “We told our guys to be patient and take the free passes.”

Hodges, Taylor, Howell and Moore, the first four batters in the SJCD lineup, accounted for nine hits, eight runs scored and eight runs batted in. Taylor and Howell, a North Florida commit, had three hits apiece.

“We start off with four seniors, and they have stepped up,” Lucas said.

Maddox Lee and Alonzo Austin slugged solo homers in the seventh inning for Trinity Christian, which ends it season with a 20-9 mark.

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