ORANGE PARK - At first glance, the titanic battle between Fleming Island High and St. Johns Country Day School baseball, arguably in the top five of Florida baseball all classes, looked to becoming a 12-13 inning pitch fest between Cody Carwile and Brad Hodges with 11 strikeouts in the first two innings between the two flamethrowers.
“We knew they were coming off a big weekend in south Florida against some power teams and they were keyed up for this game,” said Fleming Island coach Grant Bigilin. “This game is a good game to see if they are going to be ready for the upcoming post season games.”
The rescheduled contest is the second of three Battle of Titans billed when Clay, St. Johns and Fleming Island all owned unbeaten seasons. The final segment will be Friday’s much-ballyhooed Clay (14-3) vs. Fleming Island (15-1) showdown at Fleming Island High School.
Fortunately, for baseball fans, the excitement of a no-hit, no-runs slinging contest did not materialize as Fleming Island took a mid-game lead, then nearly let it slip away en route to a 5-3 win Monday night at St. Johns Country Day School.
St. Johns answered the comeback call in the two-run homer by Finn Howell in the fifth, but left baserunners stranded in the seventh.
“I tip my hat to Fleming Island, they outplayed us,” said St. Johns coach Tom Lucas, who just returned from a week tournament in Bradenton’s IMG Academy against the likes of Barron Collier, IMG Academy and Riverview Sarasota twice. “We had our best guy on the mound and our travel schedule is no excuse for some of the mistakes we made. We struck out 13 times and you don’t win big games doing that.”
A well-executed bunt by Fleming Island’s Angelo Scionti in the third triggered a crack in the demeanor of Hodges as the Golden Eagles’ batting lineup jumped on Scionti’s success with a Justin Lebesch single and a walk to Aiden Mastantuno to load the bases for Marcus Murray’s sliced single and a two-run double from Jack Gidcumb to centerfield to fire up a 3-0 lead.
Fleming Island continued to press Hodges who faced a second bases loaded situation, but prevailed with a nifty scoop and bobble play at shortstop from Connor Moore and an alert knock down of a line drive by Hodges that turned into a spin move to first base to stymie the rally.
St. Johns would rally with their first run also on a bases loaded scenario with Mason Davis walking, Luke Shannahan taking a pitch for the team and Howell singling before Moore hit a deep ball to centerfield to score a run.
Both pitchers settled in for the next inning with two three ups, three downs before Mastantuno and Murray both singled in the fifth to get St.Johns coach Tom Lucas to bring in reliever Isaiah Mamea who quickly ended the inning with a strikeout and grounder.
Fleming Island got another bases loaded on Mamea with Gavin Billingsley walking and Scionti cracking a sharp line drive to centerfield. Lucas walked Mastantuno, but Murray again responded with a run scoring single.
Carwile seemed destined to cruise to the win, but Howell tagged a two strike floating fastball to center field to suddenly shake the Fleming Island dugout.
“We wanted to get him a start-skip week to be ready to go in the district tournament and he wanted to go this game,” said Bigilin. “He’ll get a little rest. A good effort against a good team.”
Now 5-3, St. Johns threatened with Jordan Taylor getting on base with a shortstop error, but stayed at second base. Mamea kept the pressure with two strikeouts on the defensive side to set up an anticipated Spartan comeback?
“The team tried to comeback against a great team,” said Lucas. “There is great baseball here in Clay County and put these kind of games on our schedule to battle test ourselves.”
Bigilin excused Carwile and installed Divine Valle on the mound only to see Walker Matthews power a double to centerfield and Shannahan draw a walk to set up Howell as the hero. Strikeout on a half swing third strike to Howell and a strikeout to Moore ended the game.
“He did a great job closing the game,” said Bigilin. “They are a good end of game team.”
Fleming Island Baseball Schedule/Results
Record as of April 4: 14-1
Feb. 16 Beat Paxon 10-0 (4 runs in third and fifth inning, 15 hits; HR Aiden Mastantuno; Jack Gidcumb, Abram Summers (2 Doubles each) Marcus Murray double; Dylan Dudones 9Ks 3 Inning)
Feb. 18 Beat Nease 3-0 (Cody Carwile 12Ks, 1 Hit; Abram Summers 3RBIs, double; Aiden Mastentuno double)
Feb. 24 Beat Episcopal 12-9 (5 runs in 4th; Drew Homitz 3RBIs on 3-3 double; Aiden Mastentuno 6Ks)
Feb. 25 Beat St. Joseph Academy 9-2 (Angelo Scioti 3RBIs, 2RBI double in 5th)
Feb. 26 Beat Ridgeview 5-1 (Cody Carwile 12Ks, Justin Lebesch, Jack Gidcumb 2 Hits)
March 5 Beat Colquitt Cy (GA) 6-1 (5 runs in third: Two errors singles by Scionti, Lebesch, Gidcumb, Fielders choice SAC Fly Homitz; Dylan Dudones 5Ks five innings)
March 5 Beat Colquitt Cty 8-2 (4 Runs in fifth; Drew Homitz 3RBIs; Cody Carwile 10Ks)
March 9 Lost to Bartram Trail 7-2
March 11 Beat Oakleaf 5-1
March 12 Beat Ponte Vedra 2-0
Thurs., March 18 at SJCDS 7 p.m. (rescheduled April 5)
March 24 Beat Creekside 2-1
March 26 Beat Middleburg 14-1
March 27 Beat Bishop Kenny 5-0
March 29 Beat Bishop Kenny 8-2
April 1 Beat Nease 6-3
Mon., April 5 at SJCDS (11-5) 6 p.m.
Tues., April 6 at Sandalwood (13-2)
Fri., April 9 vs. Clay (14-3) 7 p.m.
Wed. April 21 at Baldwin (9-9)
Thurs., April 22 vs. Stanton (8-9) 6 p.m.
St. Johns Country Day School Baseball Schedule/Results
Record as of April 4: 11-5
Feb. 10 Beat Baldwin 9-0 (6 runs in second; James Oman HR, Walker Matthews single, Connor Moore walk, Finn Howell single, Jordan Taylor 2RBI triple; Finn Howell 3Ks, Jacob Thomas 5Ks)
Feb. 13 Beat Ponte Vedra 9-8 (5 Runs in 6th-Connor Moore single, Finn Howell single, James Oman single, Brad Hodges RBI single (8-6), Finn Howell hit by pitch, Walker Matthews grounder (8-7), Mason Davis CF error (9-8); Kody Daneault 2Ks in relief for win)
Feb. 17 Beat Bolles 2-0 (2 Runs 7th-Mason Davis single, Luke Shannahan walks, Error 3B (2-0); Jordan Taylor 2Ks in 7th; Finn Howell 8Ks for win)
Feb. 20 Beat Bartram Trail 5-2 (3 Runs 6th, 2 Runs 7th-Brad Hodges walk (Run on passed ball (1-1), Luke Shannahan walk, Jace Thomas single to load bases, S Andrade RBI single (2-1), Connor Moore RBI single (3-1), 7th-James Oman E5 single, Brad Hodges walk, SAC bunt Mason Davis RBI (4-1), Walk, Shawn Andrade grounder scores Hodges (5-1))
Feb. 26 Beat McIntosh Cty (GA) 9-1 (7 run last three innings-2RBIs each: Jordan Taylor (2 Doubles), James Oman (2 triples), Brad Hodges; Connor Moore solo HR (6-1); Jace Thomas 5Ks)
Feb. 27 Beat Glynn Academy (GA) 8-0 (6 Runs in 7th-Luke Shannahan single, Jace Thomas SAC bunt, Shawn Andrade single, Connor Moore bunt (3-0), Finn Howell grounder, Jordan Taylor walk, Shawn Andrade scores on wild pitch (4-0), Isaiah Mamea walk, Brad Hodges 3RBI double (7-0), Tyce Moore E8 (8-0);
Feb. 27 Beat Mill Creek (GA) 8-5 (4 runs in 3rd and 6th; Finn Howell 5Ks; Brad Hodges 2RBI double in third, Connor Moore 2RBI single in 6th)
March 3 Beat Ridgeview 11-3 (Shawn Andrade double, Connor Moore RBI triple (3-0), Finn Howell RBI single (4-0), Brad Hodges SAC fly (5-0), Tyce Moore single, Luke Shannahan 2-run HR (7-0), Mason Davis walk, Jace Thomas RBI single (8-0)
March 5 Beat University Christian 11-1 (4 runs 4th; 11 hits, Jace Thomas 5Ks, Luke Shannahan solo HR, Connor Moore double)
Thurs., March 11 vs. Christ’s Church Academy
March 12 Lost to Clay 3-0
March 16 Lost to Trinity Christian 6-3
March 17 Beat Baldwin 6-5
March 23 Beat Lowndes (GA) 6-5
March 29 Beat Barron Collier 7-1
March 30 Lost to IMG Academy 6-1
March 31 Lost to Riverview Sarasota 7-4
April 1 Lost to Riverview Sarasota 4-3
Mon., April 5 vs. Fleming Island (14-1)
Tues., April 6 vs. University Christian 7 p.m.
Thurs., April 8 at Providence
Fri., April 9 vs. Creekside
Tues, April 13 at Yulee
Thurs., April 15 at St. Joseph Academy
Sat., April 17 vs. Calvary Christian
Tues., April 20 vs. Bishop Kenny
Thurs., April 22 vs. Bolles
Clay Baseball Schedule/Results
Record as of April 4: 14-3
Feb. 16 Beat Keystone Heights 11-2 (Keystone Heights up 2-1 1st; CHS scores 3 runs in third-Blake Parker double, Richard Long RBI single, Dylan Greene doubles, Logan Wilson RBI single (3-2); 5 runs in 6th-Parker walk, Long single, Max Williams walk, Logan Wilson RBI single, Steven Reiss 2 RBI double (9-2), Wyatt Root RBI single (10-2) Wilson scores on wild pitch (11-2). Richard Long 4Ks.
Feb. 19 Beat Baker County 5-3 (CHS down 3-1 in 5th; Richard Long RBI single (3-2), Logan Williams 3RBI double (5-3). Steven Reiss 7Ks.
Feb. 23 Beat Trinity Christian 4-0 (Brandon Adams 10Ks, Richad Long relief; RBIs to Long, Logan Wilson, Aidan Hampton. Long doubles, scores on error 1st (1-0), Long walks, Max Williams single, Logan Wilson RBI single (2-0), Hampton SAC fly, Williams scores (3-0) 3rd; Barrett hit by pitch, Wyatt Root singles, Blake Parker bunt for single, Long grounder RBI (4-0).
Feb. 25 Beat Oakleaf 2-1 (CHS 2-0 in 5th-Alex Burke double, Blake Parker single, Max Williams RBI pop out (1-0), Parker steals third, Walks scores Parker from third (2-0). Steven Reiss 5Ks.
Feb. 26 Beat Middleburg 9-0 (Mason Barrett 3RBIs; Doubles: Wyatt Root, Max Williams, Aidan Hampton RBI to 1-0. Logan Wilson 5Ks.
March 3 Beat Ponte Vedra 11-1 (Doubles: Alec Burke, Logan Wilson; Richard Long 6Ks; 4 Runs 5th: Burke 2RBI double, Ethan Escher hit by pitch (run scores), Josh Isenberg 2RBI SAC Fly)
March 4 Lost to Bolles 1-0 (Bolles solo homer 3rd inning off Brandon Adams)
March 8 Beat Baldwin 3-1 (2RBIs Richard Long HR, Logan Wilson 11K)
March 9 Beat Menendez 9-2 (Aiden Hampton 8Ks)
March 12 Beat St. Johns Country Day School 3-0 (Brandon Adams No-Hitter, 12K, Logan Williams 2Run homer 7th)
March 15 Beat Yulee 4-0
March 16 Beat Ridgeview 7-2
March 23 Lost to Creekside 4-1
March 25 Beat St. Joseph Academy 9-0
March 27 Beat Suwannee 14-11
March 30 Lost to Bishop Kenny 2-1
April 1 Beat Ridgeview 11-1
Tues., April 6 vs. Episcopal (13-2) 7 p.m.
Thurs. April 8 at Santa Fe 5 p.m.
Fri., April 9 at Fleming Island 7 p.m.
Fri., April 16 vs. Palatka 7 p.m.
Tues., April 20 at Providence 6 p.m.
Wed., April 21 at Bartram Trail 6:30 p.m.
Thurs., April 22 vs. Keystone Heights 7 p.m.