Spartans tank top threat to state title

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 5/11/22

JACKSONVILLE - St. Johns Country Day School baseball coach Tom Lucas had no premonitions as his team was to take on the number two team in Class 2A for a third consecutive district baseball title, …

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Spartans tank top threat to state title

Posted

JACKSONVILLE - St. Johns Country Day School baseball coach Tom Lucas had no premonitions as his team was to take on the number two team in Class 2A for a third consecutive district baseball title, but that would be expected for a guy who has groomed a set of boys to be the number one team in Class 2A prior to Wednesday’s 11-1 shellacking of Trinity Christian Academy in the district 2-2A championship game.

“The way it shakes out, we still have to take care of business today,” said Lucas, now in his eighth year, 21-4 overall with a state all classes ranking on top of his top Class 2A slot of sixth with Trinity Christian falling a spot to number three in 2A. “We got a feeling we will see this team a third time before the season is over.”

At the top of the Florida list, ironically, is 7A-Stoneman Douglas High, whom St. Johns lost to in the recent National High School Invitationale held in North Carolina. Stoneman Douglas is also ranked second in USA by Maxpreps with St. Johns not in the top 25.

With the win, St. Johns will host St. John Paul II (13-8, 6-1 loser in district 1-2A semi-final to Wakulla Christian) out of Tallahassee in round one of the trek to repeat as a Class 2A finalist only with a different outcome. Wakulla Christian lost 11-1, ironically to North Florida Christian in the district final.

In the region 1-2A bracket, St. Johns will face the winner of Trinity Christian vs. St. Joseph Academy in the region semifinal with a possible region final with number two seed North Florida Christian.

In 2021, St. Johns beat Trinity Christian 11-3 after winning the district against Oak Hall, then proceeded to the Class 2A final with wins over University Christian (4-2), North Florida Christian (4-0) and Mount Dora Christian (3-2) with Out of Door Academy beating the Spartans 5-3 in the championship game. Out of Door Academy is currently 17-8 (19th in Florida, 2nd in 2A) with shutouts of 10-0 and 4-0 for their district title over Bradenton Christian and face Neumann (17-9) in their region opener. Out of Door, 24-3 last year, graduated just five players from their state champion team.

“There is no pregame speech that I can say to fire them up,” said Lucas. “They have been locked in and loose all week.”

With senior Brad Hodges starting on the mound, Trinity got some action on the basepaths early with a walk to Alonzo Austin, but Hodges responded with two strikeouts. Austin would advance with a steal and grounder to third to threaten Hodges early.

In one of the top defensive plays of the night in the first inning with two outs and a second walk putting two baserunners in play, a grounder to shortstop Shawn Andrade got an off throw to first by Andrade. First baseman Jacob Thomas alertly kept control of the ball though missing the tag swipe and fired a strike to catcher George Gilson as Austin attempted to sneak across home plate. Gilson snared Thomas’ throw and defended the plate successfully to keep the score 0-0.

Hodges cranked up a single on his first at bat, but pinchrunner Isaiah Mamea got snagged in a double play on a long fly by Jordan Taylor that Trinity centerfielder made his own spectacular defensive play for that out then alertly caught Mamea before he could return to first base in a play that put St. Johns on notice that Trinity was there to answer great plays on their side of the diamond.

But, Finn Howell blew that theory with a ripped line drive past the Trinity third base that landed Howell at second for the first of his two doubles on the night.

The rocket shot shook Trinity pitcher Brayden Harris for two walks; Tyce Moore and Kody Daneault, and a wild pitch to score Howell. A single to Vic Patel loaded the bases before Kyle Boylston hit an RBI single to left field to put St. Johns up 2-0.

Jacob Thomas kept the power bat move ongoing with his own double that scored two more runs; 4-0, with walks to Gilson and Hodges loading the bases one more time, but Taylor striking out ending the inning.

Trinity again answered with their own bases loaded situation off a single and two walks putting a questionable hit by pitch call as a run for the Conquerors; 4-1, before Hodges whiffed Jacob Miller to end the inning.

Howell and Moore teed off with singles to open the second inning with Daneault and Patel walking to score one more run. Moore got tagged stealing home and Gibson lined out to end the inning.

St. Johns bats kept exploding with Hodges doubling to chase Harris off the mound, but the Spartans went scoreless against new pitcher Landen Moore.

In the fifth, walks and a Daneault single put the score at 9-1.

Howell’s second double came in the sixth after a walk to Taylor and was followed by a double from Moore for the final 11-1 finish.

Hodges finished with five strikeouts in five innings with Trevor Bradley finishing the game.

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