ORANGE PARK - Brad Hodges did just about all he could do as a baseball athlete to get his St. Johns Country Day School baseball team back to the Class 2A championship game for a senior year finale, …
ORANGE PARK - Brad Hodges did just about all he could do as a baseball athlete to get his St. Johns Country Day School baseball team back to the Class 2A championship game for a senior year finale, but in the end, an early exit stymied the Spartans’ quest.
Without a doubt, Hodges, a senior pitcher, infielder and a guy who could tear the leather off a fastball, is the unanimous Clay Today Super 11 Baseball Most Valuable Player.
Hodges was recently named to the Maxpreps All American second team as a utility player meaning a multi-faceted athlete that brings fear from many places on the field.
For the Clay Today Super 11 choice; two pitchers; three infielders, two catchers, three outfielders and a designated player, the names on the list are the players chosen by the Clay Today sports staff that, if they were the coaches, would be who they would want on their bench. Stats and all that make up a part of the choice, but heart, grit, toughness and teammate prowess count a lot higher.
Hodges, from the mound at 10 wins, no losses, while in the batter’s box, smashed the ball with an incredible .516 batting average (Note: A .350 batting average in Major League Baseball; roughly a hit every third at bat, makes you a milionaire.)
Hodges, at roughly a hit every two times he takes his stand in the batter’s box, was a pitcher’s nightmare as the batmeister roughed up opposing hurlers for nine homers, 32 runs batted in and 11 triples; all top spots on the Spartans voracious batting lineup.
For the season, a 23-5 finish for Spartan coach Tom Lucas, Hodges was hitless in just two games while plating three runs batted in five times for the Spartans. Hodges had two games with two homers as well with one remarkable shot well past the Spartans’ soccer field concession stand.
On the mound, with his selection of pitches bewildering most batters, Hodges whiffed 114 attackers; six double digit outings with 15 vs. Bolles, limiting the output for the year to just 14 runs and a 1.28 earned runs average.
For the Clay Today Super 11 team, at pitcher, were two dynamos that controlled games from 60 feet away with Clay High’s Brandon Adams and Middleburg High’s Clayton Hendry both using their intensity and power to punish the batter’s box.
Adams prowess on the mound as well as with his bat, notably a tie-breaking double that pushed the Blue Devils to a district tournament win over Pedro Menendez followed by an eight strikeout outing in the championship game against Bishop Kenny, though a 2-1 Clay loss.
Next game, Adams answered the Bishop Kenny setback with double 9K nights; a win over Santa Fe in 10 innings and a 2-1 heartbreaking seventh inning loss to Final Four finisher Suwannee in the region semifinals.
With Adams, Hendry was a scrappy hurler for coach Danny Pierce with a 1.54 ERA off 89 strikeouts as the Broncos surged at the end of the season as is the Bronco way with three straight double digit wins before being halted by St. Augustine in the district tournament. Hendry also had a good bat with a .306 batting average, two homers and 13 runs batted in. Hendry got on base often, but was left stranded 49 times.
In the infield, St. Johns’s inside duo of Finn Howell and Shawn Andrade was a 1-2 punch for the middle of the Spartan defense that offered saw Andrade emerged as a another of Tom Lucas’ multi-talented players. Andrade upped his batting game with 18 RBIs five doubles and two homers while manning either the shortstop or second base slot if Howell, a shortstop to pitcher player, was slated for mound duty. Andrade was able to get on base via numerous ways and left on the basepaths 61 times.
Howell became the big hit guy in the Spartans’ final finishing run with this .456 batting average with 26 runs batted in. Howell, on the mound, was also unbeaten in three game outings while checking in eight times in relief and garnering one save off 38 strikeouts. Howell had three homers with 26RBIs, and eight doubles.
The third infielder; Oakleaf High’s Antonio Diaz, had one of the smoothest double play moves for the Knights with eight double plays having Diaz in the mix. With a .302 batting average, Diaz also got on base often; nine RBIs, two doubles, one triple and 36 times left on base.
In the slot, Diaz was a wall with a .938 fielding percentage with a 30 of 31 successful touches.
In the outfield, power is the game for the Clay Today Super 11 with Clay’s Max Williams, St. Johns Country Day School’s Jordan Taylor and Middleburg’s Logan Padgett all formidable in the box.
Williams has been the go-to green light for coach Josh Persinger in tight games with six homers; most at key pivots in close games. Williams also was swift with nine stolen bases.
Taylor has been one big piece of the mighty lineup of St Johns with his seven homers; 30 RBIs adding to his sprint prowess in centerfield. Taylor’s speed was also on base with 13 steals and even centerfield to second base double play.
For Padgett, 14 stolen bases and a .486 batting average, highlights his tenacity on the field on defense as well as offense with his exceptional arm numerous times halting sprinting baserunners in their tracks at third base before challenging the cannon.
At the catcher slot, Ridgeview’s Austin Orrocha was a dual threat athlete for the Panthers on both ends of pitches with a great savvy behind the plate plus a perfect game pitching outing; a 1-0 win over Christ’s Church Academy with 10Ks, zero hits, zero runs, zero walks, for the burly power player. A 1.40 ERA and a .326 batting average made Orrocha a team focal point for action on the field.
For Oakleaf, Lou Diaz manned the backstop slot with just two errors in 163 touches with a strong .370 batting average with 20 runs batted in.
In the Utility slot, Billy Girgis, the wily shortstop, pitcher, hitter, base stealer and team voice, mirrored his softball twin sister in tenacity and willingness to do whatever the team needed to get the job done. Girgis was 4-2 on the mound, 1.11 ERA with 39 strikeouts. On the basepaths, six steals on 16 green lighs. In the field, .881 in the six hole with 15 assists and a .311 batting average with eight runs batted in and one double.
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