Clay wins the showdown

By Ray DiMonda Correspondent
Posted 4/14/21

Fleming Island – “After 14 innings last night we are just coming out and giving it all we’ve got,” said Clay High baseball coach Josh Persinger in a pre-game chat with Clay Today Sports …

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Clay wins the showdown

Posted

Fleming Island – “After 14 innings last night we are just coming out and giving it all we’ve got,” said Clay High baseball coach Josh Persinger in a pre-game chat with Clay Today Sports A-Teamer Ray Dimonda about taking on Fleming Island after a 14-inning marathon win over Santa Fe the night before one of the biggest games of the Blue Devils’ very productive season thus far. “We’ll punch early and hope we just keep punching.”

After all the hype, the Clay Today jinx, the 14 innings against Santa Fe, the Fleming Island win over St. Johns Country Day School, the 30 wins and just five losses between the two teams and the projected tie game at 6.2-6.2 via algorithms on MaxPreps, Clay High simply outgutted the Golden Eagles to steal away a 5-0 win Friday night behind stellar pitching from Richard Long and the season’s best clutch bat in Max Williams.

“We just had to out-will them,” said Persinger. “These guys have heart! The baseball will show up with a mental approach. That shines.”

Fleming Island, knowing they needed to take full advantage, couldn’t get the momentum bus out of neutral and stalled out. Clay finally broke through in the third when Max Williams dinked a two-run RBI double to right field, scoring Tyler Mills and Blake Parker. The Blue Devils added another third inning run, one in the fourth, and an insurance run in the top of the seventh to blank the Golden Eagles at their own field, 5-0 and claiming the crown as the top team in Clay County.

After breaking through with the first two, the Blue Devils third run was a Logan Wilson sacrifice grounder that got him out, but scored Max Williams. The next inning, with two outs, Tyler Mills was hit by a pitch, followed by a walk for Blake Parker. Enter Rich Long who zinged a line drive to right field. Mills rounded third heading for home and scored, 4-0. Blake Parker came all the way from first with a head of steam and wasn’t stopping at third. Fleming Island’s right fielder Angelo Scionti launched a rocket to catcher Jack Gidcumb, who got a handle on it, spun around and tagged Parker.

In the top of the seventh, Dylan Greene walked off four pitches, then was relieved by courtesy runner Conner Chapman. Chapman stole second, then used a Wyatt Root right field single to cross the plate, 5-0.

Asked if his squad is where he needs to be as the season turns to playoffs, Persinger said “I wouldn’t say we’re there, you never want to say that. Tonight, was like that proud Dad moment; I let them go and they are motivating themselves. It’s way easier for me. I don’t go home with headaches.”

The Golden Eagles had opportunities that never turned the check into cash. In the second, they left two on, then went two innings of three up, three out. It was that kind of night. The bottom of the sixth saw the best chance to get back in it as Fleming Island’s Justin Lebesch walked, followed by Aiden Mastantuno’s line drive single putting two on with no outs. After the first out, Jack Gidcumb singled to left field to load the bases. Blue Devil Rich Long closed the inning for the Blue Devils striking out the next two batters, keeping the Golden Eagles empty.

“I don’t have a one, two, three, four on the hill, I have four number ones,” said Persinger. “They all have different approaches. There was never a time he was shaken all night. It was pretty cool.”

Long would go all seven innings, only walking four, allowed four hits, and nailing nine strikeouts.

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