Top 10 Sports Performances of Spring 2021

By Rabdy Lefko
Posted 7/14/21

Battle of Titans II: Fleming Island beats SJCDsORANGE PARK - At first glance, the titanic battle between Fleming Island High and St. Johns Country Day School baseball, arguably in the top five of …

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Top 10 Sports Performances of Spring 2021

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Battle of Titans II: Fleming Island beats SJCDs
ORANGE PARK - At first glance, the titanic battle between Fleming Island High and St. Johns Country Day School baseball, arguably in the top five of Florida baseball all classes, looked to becoming a 12-13 inning pitch fest between Cody Carwile and Brad Hodges with 11 strikeouts in the first two innings between the two flamethrowers.
“We knew they were coming off a big weekend in south Florida against some power teams and they were keyed up for this game,” said Fleming Island coach Grant Bigilin.
Fortunately, for baseball fans, the excitement of a no-hit, no-runs slinging contest did not materialize as Fleming Island took a mid-game lead, then nearly let it slip away en route to a 5-3 win Monday night at St. Johns Country Day School.
St. Johns answered the comeback call in the two-run homer by Finn Howell in the fifth, but left baserunners stranded in the seventh.
“I tip my hat to Fleming Island, they outplayed us,” said St. Johns coach Tom Lucas. “We struck out 13 times and you don’t win big games doing that.”
A well-executed bunt by Fleming Island’s Angelo Scionti in the third triggered a crack in the demeanor of Hodges as the Golden Eagles’ batting lineup jumped on Scionti’s success with a Justin Lebesch single and a walk to Aiden Mastantuno to load the bases for Marcus Murray’s sliced single and a two-run double from Jack Gidcumb to centerfield to fire up a 3-0 lead.
weekend in south Florida against some power teams and they were keyed up for this game,” said Fleming Island coach Grant Bigilin.
Fortunately, for baseball fans, the excitement of a no-hit, no-runs slinging contest did not materialize as Fleming Island took a mid-game lead, then nearly let it slip away en route to a 5-3 win Monday night at St. Johns Country Day School.
St. Johns answered the comeback call in the two-run homer by Finn Howell in the fifth, but left baserunners stranded in the seventh.
“I tip my hat to Fleming Island, they outplayed us,” said St. Johns coach Tom Lucas. “We struck out 13 times and you don’t win big games doing that.”
A well-executed bunt by Fleming Island’s Angelo Scionti in the third triggered a crack in the demeanor of Hodges as the Golden Eagles’ batting lineup jumped on Scionti’s success with a Justin Lebesch single and a walk to Aiden Mastantuno to load the bases for Marcus Murray’s sliced single and a two-run double from Jack Gidcumb to centerfield to fire up a 3-0 lead.


Two walkoffs; two games; one night

ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High looked to be suffering through a horrible rendition of softball Friday night (seven errors) in their second clash with Oakleaf High with a spattering of unforced errors causing coach Casey Thompson to bite his share of fingernails wondering if this year’s team was not going to have the heart to play in the big games on his schedule.
“There are a lot of young players out there and with our schedule as tough as it is, they have not been in the kind of pressure situations that games like this get to,” said Thompson, who was trying to reverse an earlier 3-1 loss to Oakleaf, also wrought with errors.
Thompson breathed a sigh of relief when a freshman, yes, one of those young-uns named Haylee McCrae, whisked a game-winning single with two baserunners on to best the Lady Knights 7-6 as the night waned into nine innings.

Williams homer crunches No. 1 St. Johns
ORANGE PARK - With two Clay County teams facing off last Friday night with a combined record of 16-1, someone was going home very upset.
The Clay High Blue Devils (9-1) made the trip over to the St. Johns Country Day Spartan’s back yard to see if they could dish out a first loss to the Spartans who are perfect up to this point.
“That’s the (MaxPreps) number one team in the nation, so they wanted us for a long time” said Clay Head Coach Josh Persinger.
The Blue Devils would land an early, but light first punch, then stand toe-to-toe with the Spartans through seven innings before the Clay bats rose to the occasion.
For the Blue Devils, the action centered around the mound as Brandon Adams went the distance, taking down 12 Spartans with strikeouts and allowing only a single hit all night while walking just one Spartan. “Brandon’s had a lot of interest, but no one is pulled the trigger. They think maybe he can’t compete,” said Persinger.
In the fourth, with the Spartans placing Jordan Taylor on the mound, Max Williams, who up to this point struck out three times, found just what the Doctor ordered, and tattooed the ball out and over the right field fence for a two run home run putting the Blue Devils out front, 3-0.
“Max is an Alabama commit who was pushing” said Persinger. “Sometimes you get in that situation and all eyes are on you.”

KHHS Channell grand slam gets Liberty one more game

KNOXVILLE - Liberty University freshman Savannah Channell hit a go-ahead grand slam off of Tennessee pitcher Ashley Rogers, sparking a 6-4 come-from-behind win as the 24-the ranked Lady Flames eliminated No. 9 national seed Tennessee, Saturday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in the NCAA womens softball championship tournament held in Knoxville.
“Savannah is an amazing athlete,” said Liberty coach Dot Richardson, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist and an NCAA champion player for UCLA. “At shortstop, she is poetry in motion at shortstop. She makes great plays look easy. She did it (homered) against Alabama and LSU. For her to hit a grand slam against Rogers, the Tennessee pitcher, I smile and hope she knows how special that was.”
For Channell, a graduate of Keystone Heights High School, it was her fourth homer of the season. Channell finished with a .256 batting average, 29 runs batted in plus 78 put outs from her shortstop position.
FIHS Mackenzie: Long day at high jump office
FLAGLER PALM COAST - With no individual region track champions, area track and field athletes waited nervously Monday afternoon to see if their times, Fleming Island High jumper Cameron Mackenzie, who has jetted himself from a 5’-8” height two years ago to a near region title at 6’-5.5”, the final tally of the day came down to three jump-offs with Niceville’s Kendell Mosely for the region first place finish. Cypress Creek’s Jaden Mathieu had the top spot in class 4A secured at 1.98 meters (6’-6”).
“I know what it feels like to jumping tired,” said Mackenzie, who with Mosely both cleared 6’6” to fuel the jump-off for second place. “I took two jumps at 6’-8” after getting there after jumps at 1.72, 1.77 and 1.82, then two jumps each at 1.87, 1.92 and then 1.97 (6’-5.5”) before missing three at 6’-8”. That’s 12 jumps in the span of about two hours.”
Both jumpers missed at their attempts at 6’-8”, 6’-6” before Mosley made 6’-4” and Mackenzie failed.

Clay comeback a thing of beauty

LIVE OAK - In a game of innings of despair; two in general for both teams; Clay and Suwannee high schools on a hot Saturday afternoon in Live Oak, the Blue Devils, now 15-2 with losses to Creekside and Bolles, prevailed after being down 9-0 to win a audacious 14-11 contest that could be a preview of future region playoffs.
“When it got to 8-0 from one terrible inning, I did not do my usually ranting and raving” said Persinger. “When it got to 9-0 off a homer, I almost choked on my spit the next inning, but then we got a few bounces and it was 9-5. From there, I think our mental focus changed to let’s just go home to hey, how about a great comeback win.”
In the sixth, with Clay rocked by an eight inning fourth, the Suwannee hitter Josh Fernald smashed Brandon Adams to the yard to go up 9-0.
“They were hitting everything,” said Persinger. “We put Steven (Reiss) in and got some control.”
The ball started rolling for Clay; more flying, with Dylan Green doubling, Logan Wilson doubling, a walk, two singles, a walk, a single to Blake Parker to 9-4, then a double from Max Williams to score the game 9-6 as the Blue Devil dugout started to vibrate with energy. Wilson would double on his return trip to the batter’s box to 9-8 Wyatt Root singling to shake the Earth. Reiss would fly out, but the shift in momentum was real.
“That’s when you could see the tiger in the eyes as the song goes,” said Persinger.
Suwannee tried to stem the wave with another homer; a solo shot, but Reiss prevailed to end the inning.
Two singles, two walks and an error tied the game at 10-10 before Root singled to score Long and put Clay up 11-10.
In the seventh, Parker crushed a double to right field in front of a Richard Long single to put two runners in play.
Up next, Max Williams, who smashed a two run homer to defeat St. Johns Country Day School a week prior, calmly blasted his second RBI Dinger Buzzer Beater to give Clay one more inning to secure the win.

Yellow Jackets take conference track titles

ORANGE PARK - The Oakleaf Junior High boys and girls track teams sizzled their way to team titles at the Northeast Florida Athletic Conference championships held Thurs., April 8 at Orange Park High School.
Oakleaf’s girls got a sterling performance from sprinter Kaymin Sales who won the 100, 200 and 400 then anchored the 4 x 100 relay to victory.
In the boys action, sprinters from Oakleaf and Orange Park traded off wins and second place with Devin Collins winning the 100 for the Yellow Jackets, followed by teammate Josber Stimphil; Orange Park’s Allan Lamb winning the 200 over two sprinters from Bradford, and Oakleaf’s Santonio Rio winning the 400 in 53.30 with Orange Park taking third and fourth, Cameron Doctor and Quinton Moore.
Oakleaf won the 800 with Jaycen Lowery clocking 2:26.56.


FIHS Davis: JU soccer to NCAAs

DELAND, Fla. – The Jacksonville University men’s soccer team (7-4-1) endured a lost fall season, injuries, and a suspended ASUN Championship game, but at the end of it all, came away as the 2021 Spring Men’s Soccer ASUN Champions following a 2-0 defeat of FGCU (4-4-3) at Stetson on Sunday afternoon.
Reed Davis, a sophomore midfielder from Fleming Island High School, a two-time Mr. Florida Soccer award winner and a state champion team member at Fleming Island, was named to the All Tournament team along with three teammates.

McFarland Named Big Ten Freshman of the Year

Oakleaf High graduate Jaeda McFarland, now a freshman softball player at the University of Maryland, has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as announced by the conference on Wednesday. This marks Maryland’s first freshman to receive such honor since joining the Big Ten, with Lindsey Schmeiser taking the ACC title in 2013.
In addition, McFarland, an Oakleaf High School graduate, has been named to the All-Second, All-Freshman, and All-Defensive team; the most honors a player has earned at one time in Maryland history. McFarland led the team in multiple statistical categories this season, including games started (44), runs scored (24), hits (46, 9th in B1G), RBIs (19), triples (4, 4th in B1G), total bases (68) and stolen bases (13, 7th in B1G). Her 1.000 fielding percentage leads the conference, and her three runs scored against Michigan State (04/09) ranks second overall.

Lowery tagged as state weightlifting coach of year

GAINESVILLE (May 18) – Keystone Heights High School boys weightlifting coach Lantz Lowery was named the 2021 Boys’ Weightlifting Coach-of-the-Year while Winter Springs High senior Marvin Collins was selected as the winner of the 2021 Florida Dairy Farmers Mr. Weightlifting award, in a press release from the Florida Dairy Farmers.
“I think the key was that we had a bunch of weight classes with two or three guys having to compete just to be the two guys that would be able to go to tournaments,” said Lowery. “There was not a sense of being the best guy in a single weight class without having someone real close pushing you to keep sharp. On a good day, we had a lot of third guys that could be number two before a meet.”
Lowery was selected as the 2021 Boys’ Weightlifting Coach-of-the-Year after leading Keystone Heights to the Class 1A state title, the school’s first since 2014. The team had eight place winners, including 139-pound champion Zach Glover and 169-pound champion Kade Sanders, in scoring 37 points. Lowery, in his 16th season at Keystone Heights, was coach for the 2014 state champion team as well.


Waters, Scaife nab $10G fish haul

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Keystone Heights fishing aficionado Branden Waters must have learned a few things with his foray with BASSMASTER pro Brent Chapman last summer as he and partner Will Scaife came home with a $10,000 first place check and trophy from the 32nd Wolfson’s Children Hospital Bass Tournament held May 13-15 off the City Docks of Palatka. The tournament raised nearly $400,000 for the Wolfson’s Children Hospital.
“We fished Lake George; me and my brother-in-law Will Scaife,” said Waters. “We had never fished this together, but 48 hours ago I was going home to do some work. I checked some things and said okay and I figured we could either win or catch nothing. It all worked out.”
According to Waters, nearly 400 fishing boats participated in the tournament which was scored by the weight of the best five fish of the pair.
“We caught about 10 fish each and when we measured out, I had three and Will had two for our total of 30.66 pounds for the win,” said Waters. “Will had a 2-3 pound bass eat his top water lure and then had a seven pounder come within 10 feet of the boat to try and steal his lure. He had two fish on one lure at about 10 pounds, but the smaller fish got off his hook. It was a nice start to the tournament.”

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