Clay County Crime Report
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Spartans get a look in the mirror

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 4/20/23

ORANGE PARK - With a fresh new ranking of number one in Class 2A and 11th in all classes Florida, the St. Johns Country Day School Friday match against Providence was a chance to face off against a …

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Spartans get a look in the mirror


ORANGE PARK - With a fresh new ranking of number one in Class 2A and 11th in all classes Florida, the St. Johns Country Day School Friday match against Providence was a chance to face off against a mirror image of themselves.

"This was a game against a team very much like us; good pitching, good bats, solid defense," said St. Johns coach Tom Lucas, who saw way too many errors end with a 7-6 loss to the Stallions. "Games like this come down to one or two plays that change the game."

Providence, at 17-4, ranked 18th in all classes Florida, and sixth in Class 3A, versus the St. Johns juggernaut, now at 15-3, looked to maybe be a pitcher's dual with Providence offering University of North Florida commit Brett Dennis on the mound against St. John's senior Jacob Thomas, the pitcher's dual kind of happened, but the unexpected errors; six to St. Johns and four to Providence, was a bit of a surprise.

"You can't make six errors in a game against a team of this caliber and expect to win," said Spartans coach Tom Lucas. "I'm proud that we answered at the end with our batting lineup to close the score down, but we'll focus this week on sharpening up the field play."

Lucas lamented that his usually strong defensive lineup gave Thomas and four more Spartan pitchers little help in tense situations.

"We stayed within a run or two for most of the game with the errors," said Lucas. "That's a positive, but not one to hold on to as the end of the season and districts and regions gets close. We need to executing sharper."

Providence came at in the first inning unabashedly not wincing at Thomas's incoming fireballs from the mound as the Stallions teed off with two singles after kickoff before Thomas settled in with two whiffs to even the tally. Thomas hit Providence batter Mason Wortman to load the bases after the first error on a pickoff play first moved runners to fill the bases before Ben Barrow rocked Thomas with a double deep to left field and three runs. Thomas regroupe for a third out strikeout to stop the barrage.

Dennis limited the Spartan at bats to one single and three grounders.

Thomas hit a second batter and an second error scored the fourth run for Providence. Run five came off a right field fly ball mishandled as Spartan fans were holding their breath watching the mayhem on their home field. Thomas again ended the bleeding with a third out strikeout.

"We were just not in our game," said Spartan shortstop Sean Andrade, who had his own mishap in the six hole later in the game. "This is an experienced group and we'll have it right quickly. We are much better than this."

St. Johns got their first run on singles to Seth Alford then, Kellen Brown before Providence scored their first error to put the game at 5-3.

Both sides settled into actual Providence/St. Johns style tough baseball for the next two innings; Tnomas replaced by sidewinder Jeffrey Henry on the mound for St. Johns, with little fanfare before Andrade bobbled a sharp grounder from Barrow that scored Wortman from second base, 7-3.

Henry locked down the Stallions for two innings with Kody Daneault hammering a double to left field and Kyle Boylston singling to move baserunner into scoring position. Andrade would sac fly Daneault in before Boylston got snared on a pickoff at second base.

"Great teams make great plays," said Lucas. "They executed that one perfectly."

Henry got loose on the mound to put Thomas Gibbs on the mound with two baserunners in play in the sixth inning. With bases loaded, Gibbs hammered the Providence batters with two strikeouts to squelch any runs.

Dennis did his own squelching with two Ks and a grounder dealing the Spartans a momentum halt.

"He is a Division I pitcher and he just grinded there," said Lucas.

After two walks put Providence back in scoring position, a Lucas calling in senior Paul Janeczko, then Trevor Bradley to the mound, a heads up play on a grounder got a double play as Bradley fielded a fly bunt in the air and turned and fired off to second base to pop both baserunners.

"That was our big play for the night," said Lucas.

St. Johns looked to go big as a finale with Isaiah Mamea hammering a left center h homer, Daneault and Boylston both singling and Andrade singling home Daneult to 7-6 and Lucas anticipating a big finish.

Thomas walked as Spartan fans sat up on their seats, but Alford and George Gilson both striking out to Providence freshman reliever Ryan Walls.

Dennis finished with five strikeouts for Providence with Henry whiffing five in relief and Tnomas registering four as a starter.

St. Johns keeps their usual tough schedule going with Trinity Christian (17-3) on Mon., April 17, and Bishop Kenny, a 3-2 winner over Clay High in March, on Tues., April 25.


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