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Blue Devils thwart Panther upset bid

Oakleaf: County dragon slayers

Posted 12/31/69

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High squelched a possible Ridgeview High first inning salvo with a nifty Cole Carnell double play effort and unloaded with their previously silent bats en route to an 11-2 …

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Blue Devils thwart Panther upset bid

Oakleaf: County dragon slayers


GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High squelched a possible Ridgeview High first inning salvo with a nifty Cole Carnell double play effort and unloaded with their previously silent bats en route to an 11-2 win Friday night. The win came a day after Clay lost a 2-1 walk-off game to 3A number one ranked Trinity Christian Academy.

In yet another show of March Madness with their bats, the fiery Oakleaf High baseball squad ignited to take out its third Clay County powerhouse with a 7-5 win over Fleming Island on Thursday.
Oakleaf coach Matt Carter, with surprisingly a 6-5 overall record, has now scorched Earth the likes of Clay (5-1, region finalist last year) and St. Johns Country Day School (8-5, 2A runnerup last year) in March. Out of Clay County, Oakleaf also dinged 2A power North Florida Christian (2A region final loss to St. Johns last year, 7-3-2 now) and 4A Bishop Kenny (4A runnerup last year, 8-2 now). Surprisingly, Oakleaf's losses have been to the likes of Union County and Yulee; both with 7-6 records.
For Clay head coach Josh Persinger, the Clay Blue Devils; 7-4 now with an uncharacteristic three straight losses last week; 5-1 to Oakleaf, 17-3 to St. Johns Country Day School (2A No. 1) and 2-1 in 10 innings to unbeaten Arnold in Panama City (9-0, 4A No. 1), have been looking to change their destiny.
“We lost to the number one team in 3A last night (9-1, 6th in Florida), 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh because we just weren’t scoring runs,” said Persinger. “We talked about keep tapping on the glass, keep tapping on the glass, don’t let us in… tonight there was some fire. It was nice to see them light that fire early and do all the little things we’ve been talking about. That was our speech, win every inning, you win the game.”
It was a game of beat the clock as rain was coming. The early start from the Panthers looked to give them a quick boost with Tommy Glasspoole and Keegan Roach sitting on first and second base with one out in the top of the first. But some dynamic defense by the Blue Devils with Preston Andrews snagging the ball, tossing over to second base where Easton McMahan got the advancing runner, then over to Merrick Rapoza at first base to throw cold water on the Panther offense with a double play in the first inning.
“When you get all those guys on base, you definitely need to figure out how to get them to home plate,” said Panther Head Coach Saúl Jiménez. “The scores haven’t been indicative of what we’ve done on the baseball field. When you don’t punch the runs in, and then make errors behind your pitcher, it’s a formula for disaster for the momentum of the game. It was a well played ballgame, even with the issues, 5-2 going into the sixth inning. Some calls didn’t go our way and they took advantage of that.”
The Blue Devils started the early scoring with Carnell on third, Easton McMahan drove a single grounder to center field to score Carnell. A walk put Rapoza on first, advancing McMahan to second. A ground out advanced both runners to second and third. With two outs, McMahon scored on a wild pitch, as Rapoza took third, 2-0. Preston Andrews grounded to reach first and pushed Rapoza home for the early 3-0 lead.
The Panthers looked to have a good rally building top of the third with the bases loaded, a walk pushed Cody Cigno across the plate with Cody Holland, Glasspoole, and Xavier Quintin all on base, 3-1. After the walked run, Clay’s Rylan McMahan redeemed himself by striking out the last Panther batter to close the inning, again throwing cold water on the Panther’s drive to get back in the game with bases loaded.
In the bottom of the third, Clay again scored when Easton McMahan scored on a Panther wild pitch, 4-1. Clay’s defense kept the Panther bats quite another inning, then lit up the Blue Devil bats. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Preston Andrews walked and had Ethan Bouchie courtesy run for him. Designated hitter Luis Edargo Rivera Valentin drove the ball down the right field foul line, rounded second base and performed a spectacular Superman head first slide into third base, scoring Bouchie, 5-1.
In the fifth inning, the Panthers again formed a good attack when Keegan Roach doubled to right field, scoring Douglas Langley, 5-2. Roach would get the signals crossed as Head Coach Saúl Jiménez was showing Langley to go home, and Roach thought he should keep coming to third. With two outs, the soft rally was squashed with a ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, still ahead 5-2, the Clay bats were again smoking. The inning would see LJ Martin, Bouchie, Ethan Mathis, Michael Gunson, Carnell, and Antonio Griffin score to push the Blue Devil lead out 11-2. The Panthers last gasp to try and redeem themselves fell flat with three batters to the box and three outs just as the rain finally arrived.