This week's crime report for Clay County Florida, provided by the Clay County Sheriff's Office.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - After less than 24 hours since the Middleburg Lady Broncos took their first loss of the season against University Christian, with the Christians using a five run sixth inning to …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - After less than 24 hours since the Middleburg Lady Broncos took their first loss of the season against University Christian, with the Christians using a five run sixth inning to take and hold onto the lead, the Broncos took their Friday night fight into the backyard of Clay High, taking on the yet defeated Lady Blue Devils. Through five innings, the Broncos built up a 3-0 lead as the Blue Devils were blanked out, not able to find a chink in the armor of the Bronco defense.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Devils got a single run across the plate to finally get on the board, 3-1. Back at bat after holding the Broncos in the top of the sixth inning, the Blue Devils drove four runs across the plate to get ahead and stay ahead 5-3, handing the Broncos their second consecutive loss as the Lady Blue Devils stayed perfect in this early part of the 2023 season, 5-3.
“We talk about it and preach it in practice, just give ourselves a chance to win in the late innings,” said Clay Head Coach Matt Lewis. “Hang tight and play our defense. The one run in the fifth inning was huge because it gave a little bit of a taste. We could put one on her.
Then in the sixth inning, the bottom half of our lineup came through in the clutch. They got on and allowed us to push people around, just exactly what we needed to do. This never die mentality, I kind of like it.”
Middleburg High coach Ashley Houston, who turned an improbable 11-11 midseason record into a Class 5A championship last year, contemplated the loss and the first week of having a big target on her back.
“We knew this first week was going to be really tough when you face two teams, back-to-back nights, that were in the Final Four last year,” said Houston. “It was a tough challenge and we were up to it. We are a very young team with one senior. We are playing really well early and we just have to learn how to finish. We have to figure out how to execute earlier throughout the game and at the end of the day, get the job done.”
Early in the game, it was all Broncos as Brooke Cooper and Ariana Seibel made their way onto the bases with two outs. Kaelyn Hagan pumped a line drive right field to score both runners in the top of the third. Again, in the bottom of the fourth inning, just like the prior innings, the Blue Devils would get no more than a single runner on before the Bronco defense would snuff out the attack. The Broncos again pulled another run across when Clay made an error, allowing Cooper to score again, 3-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, Clay would get two runners on via walks, to set up an RBI single with a line drive to center field by Kendyll Mann. Gabrielle Ellis put the initial run on the board and even with the inning ending 3-1, she threw gas on the Blue Devil fire.
With a three up, three out defense and back at the plate, the Clay rally hats seemed to be working as the runners were on early. With one out and a walk, Clay had the bases loaded and caps on inside out. After the second out, and the game nearing the close, it was now or maybe never. Ellis hit a seemingly routine grounder to the Bronco shortstop which scored the run and all others safe on base, 3-2. “Adjustments were big,” said Lewis. “
We’re going to be in most ballgames no matter what. We just have to figure out, are we going to try and do it in the beginning or are we going to wait until the end of the game to do it.â€ Staying in the area, Clay went back to the shortstop for a Serena Willimon grounder which scored Grace Miller and McKinsey Bardroff, 4-3 with Clay now in the driver’s seat.
Kendyll Mann followed with a line drive single to again score Ellis to bring the game to the conclusion 5-3.
The final at bat for the Broncos could produce no more than a single runner onboard to complete the game, 5-3. “I think we just need to continue to work hard and get them to buy-in that it is a process and learning from the process,” said Houston.
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