FLEMING ISLAND - In a rare Saturday night playoff, after getting down early 1-0 in the second inning, the Fleming Island Golden Eagles made school history as the first Fleming Island High Baseball …
FLEMING ISLAND - In a rare Saturday night playoff, after getting down early 1-0 in the second inning, the Fleming Island Golden Eagles made school history as the first Fleming Island High Baseball team to make it to the Final Four State Championship tournament after a nail-biter defensive clinic held off Tallahassee Chiles for a 3-2 region 1-6A championship win. Chiles beat Fleming Island in the region 1-8A quarterfinals in 2019, then lost in the region finals to Strawberry Crest, the 8A runnerup.
“Cody (Carwile) made it a little bit easier the other night,” said Fleming Island coach Grant Bigilin. “They were trying to hit bombs all night, but with this wind, they were not going out tonight. When they had runners on, they tried to force the issue. Our pitchers did the job with guys on base.”
Fleming Island (24-5) will travel to Fort Myers on Fri., May 21 for their state semifinal game against Viera High out of Melbourne (20-6) with a 4 p.m. first pitch. Viera was a 7A region finalist in 2019. In the opposite bracket, Bloomindale (22-6) will play Dwyer (18-9) at 7 p.m.
In Maxpreps rankings, Chiles was at number one, with Fleming Island four, Viera 10th, Dwyer 11th and Bloomindale 14th. Chiles was sixth ranked in Florida with Fleming Island 16th.
Starting on the hill, Fleming Island senior Dylan Dudones held the Tallahassee team to a single run off five hits as the fielders did their job to keep the Timberwolves within striking distance. Chiles would test Fleming Island early with an attempt to steal second. Catcher Jack Gidcumb fired a laser to Jacob Broussard that killed off the first inning as Chiles’ Will Merrix went back to the bench empty handed.
With one out in the second, bases loaded, Chiles used a sacrifice fly to get the first score on the board, but a rocket launcher from Angelo Scionti in deep right field, got the ball back in time to stop any other damage. Chiles popped out to leave three runners on.
With one out in the fourth, Gavin Billingsley walked in five pitches and started the engine in the momentum train. Scionti followed when he singled to center to get the tying run into the scoring slot. Justin Lebesch smacked a center field line drive to score Billingsley as Chiles threw to first base, allowing Billingsley to sneak in the back door to tie the game at 1-1.
After three ball pitches, Chiles put Aiden Mastantuno on first so they could take on Marcus Murray to try for out three. On a two and two count to Murray, Chiles Pitcher Cooper Smith misfired and the ball passed by the catcher, scoring Scionti, 2-1. Murray accepted the Chiles challenge and nailed a clutch line drive to right field for an RBI single to bring home Mastantuno, 3-1.
Dudones would be relieved by Isaac Williams in the top of the sixth to try and close the event.
After a quick out, Williams ran into trouble and Divine Valle got the nod. “You have a short leash with this thing,” said Bigilin. “You just have to do damage control. We talked to everyone about this situation all week.”
With the bases loaded, a passed ball allowed the score to creep closer as a Timberwolf crossed the plate, 3-2. Valle would walk the batter, then get a visit from his catcher Jack Gidcumb.
“He told me just calm down,” said Valle. “My head was a little high. He told me just look at my glove. Then I was in the zone. To be honest. I couldn’t even hear the crowd. It was just me and Giddy.”
The hurler closed the sixth with a strikeout.
Fleming Island could only best a single runner on before it was one last defensive push. In the top of the seventh, Valle would get a quick out with his defense getting a grounder, then Valle walked one.
With a pop out to center field for out two, it would come down to the final out.
“I have to go. I have to do it. I had to finish this right now,” said Valle.
After watching strike one whiz by, followed by a pick-off attempt just to slow things down, the Timberwolves fouled one off, then stood still as Valle tossed the heat down the pipe to close out the game in the same fashion he did for the district title, striking out the final batter