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Oakleaf lone unbeaten for area baseball

Clay (7-1) vs. Oakleaf (8-0): March 14 Jax Baseball Grounds

Posted 3/16/23

OAKLEAF - Clay County baseball stormed from season openers until about game five before the first hiccup occurred as diamond fans are promised a bevy of playoff potential action after the March …

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Oakleaf lone unbeaten for area baseball

Clay (7-1) vs. Oakleaf (8-0): March 14 Jax Baseball Grounds


Posted

OAKLEAF - Clay County baseball stormed from season openers until about game five before the first hiccup occurred as diamond fans are promised a bevy of playoff potential action after the March Spring Break. As of Mon., March 13, Oakleaf was the lone unbeaten starter at 7-0 with the Knights upping the ante to 8-0 with a win over Episcopal, 4-2. Hot news is Oakleaf and Clay play Tues., March 13 at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds.
With a new coach at Fleming Island; Gil Morales, noted multiple state champion coach at numerous high schools including Eagle's View and Trinity Christian Academy, two guys getting entrenched in their second and third years in successful programs; Saul Jimenez at Ridgeview and Matthew Carter at Oakleaf, three veteran chiefs that know their game with years of proof; Clay High's Joshua Persinger, St. Johns Country Day School's Tom Lucas and Middleburg's Danny Pearce, plus a familiar name at Keystone Heights; Mattox, with Jesse Mattox taking the reigns from long-tenured coach Alan Mattox. The new guy in the mix is Orange Park's George Eldridge who has the Raiders in a winning slide after a few tough seasons.
After two preseason losses, Carter and Oakleaf (8-0 after Monday 4-2 win over Episcopal) has stacked up impressive wins with big bats with two wins in Georgia (15-0 and 5-2), before romping through FSU High 9-0, Atlantic Coast 5-1, Bolles 7-0 and Orange Park 5-0. A pre-Spring Break romp, 13-2, over Beachside left the Knights looking forward to a week of Episcopal, Clay, St.Johns Country Day School and Ponte Vedra for the second half of March.
Clay, the last unbeaten to leave the stable (7-1), had a roll of nine; two in preseason, to open before falling to Bishop Kenny 3-2 on March 9. The Blue Devils, with sophomore Easton McMahan (related to Middleburg power hurler Pearson McMahan of a few years ago) ruling the mound while posting six runs batted in with a .261 batting average (1HR), also had two wins in Georgia; one a 14-4 pounding of Tallulah Falls, the other a 3-1 over Irwin County. Clay, ironically, faces Oakleaf, unbeaten after a 4-2 win over Episcopal on Mon., March 13 to go 8-0. Oakleaf also faces a gauntlet to finish March with Arnold High out of Panama City, Bartram Trail with former Fleming Island coach Grant Biglin (6A runnerup finish), Ponte Vedra and the surprisingly to some, Middleburg High Broncos. Middleburg opened with losses, but Pearce and long-time dugout comrade Alan Burnsed don't play the short game and have developed one of the more unpredictable programs in north Florida.
Fleming Island (6-1) seemed destined behind seniors Gavin Billingsley and Abram Summers, both above .400 batting averages, to make the March 10 showdown (Rain delayed to March 31) with Clay a battle of titans, but the Golden Eagles got surprised by a solid 3A-Providence, (losses to fourth-ranked 7A-Sparkman High (AL) and Trinity Christian Academy) team in game three before rattling off four wins prior to the Clay postponement.
Ridgeview (6-2) opened like the others with five wins with two games mercied with wins of 15-1 and 19-4 as the Panther bats and basepath acumen has vastly improved. Coach Saul Jimenez has sunk in his aggressive offensive tactical command with strong defensive play led by senior shortstop Billy Girgis. Jimenez ends March with Fleming Island (March 29) then has Oakleaf and Clay in the first two weeks of April to set up a district run.
Keystone Heights (5-2) had the unenviable task of opening with Clay (6-3 loss) before tearing through four wins in six games with runs of 9, 9, 13, 9 and 10 before getting goosed by North Marion 4-0 on March 7. Mattox has the Indians hitting at a .328 team average with Ryan Jones, Gage Smith, Kenneth Guy, Andrew Wilson all bringing big bats behind team leader Noah Branch's crazy .562 average with nine RBIs. Jones and Guy hit three triple between the pair in win over Williston last week.
Orange Park, 5-4, has shown vast improvement with the last winning season for the Raiders a Fred Matricardi-led 13-6 in 2009. The Raiders will move step by step to an improved atmosphere behind efforts juniors Tyson Cruz and Hayden Hooks both hitting over .400 and three just under .400.
Over at St. Johns Country Day School, Lucas has revved up his baseball machine to answer the challenge of returning to the Class 2A front lines with the Spartans ranked second in 2A (behind Canterbury) with one of the highest strength of schedule ratings.
St. Johns, with a 7.0 strength rating, will face off April 6 with Clay, with a 5.9 strength rating, as two of the top area teams playing monster schedules in Florida and around the southeast (mainly Georgia at this stage). St. Johns normally wicked batting lineup already has four homers with four players above .400; Hunter Rodgers (.500), Kody Daneault (.455), Jacob Thomas (.429) and Kyle Boylston (.400). Lucas also has 14 stolen bases for his Spartans; four from Daneault.

Rankings

Class 2A: 1. Canterbury (Fort Myers, 6-0), 2. St.Johns Country Day School (7-2)

Class 3A: 1. Montverde Academy (7-1), 9. Trinity Christian (6-2), 15. Bolles (4-3), 17. Keystone Heights (5-2)

Class 5A: 1. Archbishop McCarthy (Fort Lauderdale, 9-0), 3. Tallahassee Lincoln (6-1), 5. Clay (7-1), 14. Ridgeview (6-2)

Class 6A: 1. Tallahassee Leon (6-1), 3. Gainesville Buchholz (4-1), 8. Oakleaf (8-0), 17. Fleming Island (6-1)