Clay looking to youth to survive upcoming districts

By Ray DiMonda
Posted 4/20/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High Blue Devil Softball Head Coach Matt Lewis is searching.

His team has an identity crisis right now, and he knows where he has to go and what he needs to do. …

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Clay looking to youth to survive upcoming districts

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High Blue Devil Softball Head Coach Matt Lewis is searching.

His team has an identity crisis right now, and he knows where he has to go and what he needs to do.

“It’s there, we’re maturing, we’re getting there,” said Lewis, after his April 11 6-0 loss to the Baker County Bobcats, a former 5A regional foe with a 16-7 overall record, Tuesday night. “It’s my job now to drag them kicking and screaming.”

Of course, he was referring to the team’s mental state. With only one senior playing right now, the team needs leadership.

Not the cheerleading screamer, said Lewis, but a leader to step up when the team needs it, and punch the ball deep to spark her team. Right now, the job is vacant and Lewis needs to fill the void. After four games at Kissimmee where the team came back 2-2 after three days, his starting pitcher, Morgan Crutcher, threw over 20 innings and she needed time off.

“Not that I don’t want to throw a game away and just throw away a loss; but I need people to step up too,” said Lewis. “I need to put pressure on other people. We had a pressure practice, we threw live against ourselves in practice, and I’m trying to put pressure on people. I don’t have Morgan (Crutcher) to keep us in a one-nothing ball game. We have to get somebody to step up and do something, and I’m waiting for it to happen.”

Baker County is in district 3-5A while Clay has ascended to district 4-6A. Clay and Baker County have a long history in the Class 5A region playoffs with Baker County knocking the Blue Devils out of the 2015 playoffs in the region semifinal en route to 5A title. Last year, Baker County lost in the 5A state semifinals to eventual runneruup Bayshore High while Clay, the district 4-6A champion over Ponte Vedra eventually lost to Ponte Vedra in the region semifinal. Clay, locked up at 7-1 in district play with Ponte Vedra, will host the district 4-6A tournament in a week (April 24-27).

Against Baker County game, the Blue Devils only hit four base hits in seven innings. It wasn’t a bad game early as the Devils kept it to a 1-0 game through the second inning. Clay held them again in the third.

After never needing more than four batters in any inning, the Devils just never got their game going.

At the game’s conclusion, Lewis kept talking to his girls out on the field for an extended time, trying to find that player with a spark.

“We are young, but that answer is off the board now,” said Lewis. “This was game number 20. It doesn’t say freshman at Clay High, it says Devils across the front. We just have to step up and I’m waiting for someone to do it. We’ll get there. You play a 25-game audition for the district tournament.”

Clay exacted some positive with a 4-3 win over Keystone Heights on April 13.

The next week will show if Lewis found the right chemistry to solve his problem. Clay finishes regular season play with St. Augustine April 17, at Mandarin April 18 and at Fleming Island April 20.

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