FLEMING ISLAND – Stellar pitching performances by Clay County’s high school baseball team fueled strong team finishes with names like Evan Wickeri, Dylan Faulkner, Finn Howell and Zack Mercer dominating from the mound as top picks for the Clay Today SUPER 11 baseball team.
The Clay Today SUPER 11 sports teams are comprised of the top 11 athletes in their respective sports as chosen by the Clay Today sports staff and photographers.
Zack Mercer, Fleming Island,
Pushing to a second district 2-8A title, Mercer was the backbone of the Golden Eagles team under second year coach Grant Bigilin that came within a strike or two of replicating their region championship finish a year ago. Mercer, handling 85 whiffs and just 11 earned runs off the mound for an 8-2 overall record, averaged a strong nine strikeouts everytime he stayed for seven innings. Mercer also sported a .299 batting average with 40 putouts in 54 touches when at third base.
Dylan Faulkner, Clay, Senior, P/OF
Faulkner, who just returned from a FACA All Star game appearance, punched out 73 strikeouts for the year off a 5-3 won/lost record while controlling games with a 1.773 earned runs average for the Blue Devils. Faulkner had championship performances against district 4-5A champion Bishop Kenny, 11 strikeouts in 3-0 win; district 4-6A champion Ponte Vedra, seven strikeouts in 5-4 win and 5A region semifinalist and 2018 runnerup Bolles, nine strikeouts in 2-1 win.
Faulkner also hit .246 with five runs batted in and three doubles.
Finn Howell, SJCDS, Freshman, P
As one of the youngest prospective superstars to play in Clay County, Howell was top hurler in two-man front (with Brad Hodges, also a freshman) for coach Tom Lucas. St. Johns Country Day School got to the region championship to faceoff with powerhouse North Florida Christian, who got bumped in the state semifinal by defending 3A champion Canterbury. Howell worked with a 1.28 ERA with 48 strikeouts to finish 8-2 with just 11 walks delivered. Howell hit a strong .289 with one homer, one triple and four doubles and pitched to wins against district 4-7A champion and region semifinalist Bartram Trail (3Ks), 4-6A runnerup and region quarterfinalist Ridgeview (twice 5Ks and 3Ks ), 2-8A champion and region quarterfinalist Fleming Island (3Ks), district 1-3A runnerup Maclay (6Ks) and 4-5A champion Bishop Kenny (5Ks). Howell also blasted a homer against Maclay.
Evan Wickeri, RHS, senior, P/2B
Wickeri was key returner from senior-laden 2018 team and led by example with 1.19 ERA from the mound as one of the top throwers in area. Wickeri finished with 58 strikeouts against 238 batters with just 39 hits.
At the plate, Wickeri was one of toughest outs for area pitchers to face with an amazing three strikeouts for the season; two against Fleming Island, one against Bolles, against a strong .415 batting average that included 13 RBIs off six doubles and 34 hits. Wickeri got on base often and was left stranded 27 times with 10 steals.
In the field, Wickeri had just three errors on 79 touches with four double plays with shortstop Calvin Gunsaulus.
Logan Schmidt, OHS, Junior, P/IF
Schmidt followed in big brother Jacob’s footsteps as a team leader with his arm and with his bat. Jacob Schmidt was a tour de force with his arm from the catcher’s slot while being a big bat and Logan answered from the mound with a 2.31 ERA and 44 strikeouts while hitting .271 with three homers. Schmidt was strong with just eight walks on the year and 19 RBIs from the plate.
Tyler Kuramoto, SJCDS, Senior, C
Kuramoto has been a mainstay of power for the Spartans for a long time and he showed off that power with back-to-back homers in two final regular season games with a .321 batting average and six doubles also. In 112 touches behind the plate, Kuramoto hiccuped just once with the other 111 outs for coach Tom Lucas.
Chase Holman, CHS, Senior, C
Holman was Mr. Excitement for Blue Devil coach Joshua Persinger as he was the guy who often got the key hit, key steal or even a key appearance on the mound late in close games. Holman batted .358 with 13 singles, eight doubles and three homers off top pitchers on Clay’s rugged schedule. Able to push his footspeed for the doubles made Holman a dangerous single-to-double threat for lazy outfielders. Holman had 18 RBIs as well and was left on base 38 times with three steals.
On the mound, Holman had five appearances with six strikeouts.
Noah McCollum, FIHS, Senior, SS
McCollum was the difference maker in the shortstop “6” hole with an area leading 12 doubles plays turned for the season off 84 touches with just nine errors. McCollum had the stalwart aid of a strong second baseman in Dylan Bonham and a deft first baseman in Justin Hawkins.
At the plate, McCollum was a tough out at .298BA with three doubles and a triple to get eight RBIs and 10 steals.
Anthony Roman, RHS, Senior, C
Roman was one of the strongest arms and bats for coach Sgromolo with a .349 batting average, but more impressively 43 times left on base which made him a scoring threat most of the time when he entered the batters’s box. At catcher, Roman had a rifle arm with one error, one double play and an area-high 18 assists; mainly picks at 2B on 27 steal attempts.
Collin Henderson, MHS, Senior, OF
On a Middleburg High team that had explosive bats, Henderson was the ringleader with his .279 batting average that had seven doubles and three homers. Henderson scored 28 runs for the Broncos with 10 steals aiding him.
Justin Mosley, CHS, Senior, P/3B
Mosley transferred from Middleburg to join the Blue Devils and immediately showed that he was going to be an impact player wherever he was; at pitcher, at bat or at third base. With wins over St. Johns Country Day School and Ridgeview; both region playoffs teams and with six strikeouts in each game, plus a 13 whiff night against district foe Menendez in a 9-0 win, Mosley was power on the mound to the tune of 46 strikeouts and a 2.063 ERA with a 6-3 won/lost record.
At bat, Mosley powered away with a .351 BA, 14 RBIs, 21 singles, two doubles, two triples and a homer while getting two steals.