GREEN COVE SPRINGS | There will be a new state baseball champ in Class 5A this season, and the Clay Blue Devils figure it might as well be them.
Clay knocked out defending state champion Ponte Vedra in the Region 1-5A semifinals Tuesday night, hanging on for a 3-2 win. The two last met in the playoffs in 2012, a state semifinal won 1-0 by Ponte Vedra in nine innings. With numerous holdovers for both squads remaining from that classic, this felt like Part II.
“It’s awesome. It feels so much like that season , so many things happening like that year,” said Clay pitcher Andy Toelken, whose five-hitter moved him to 9-4. “This is our year. Everything has been going our way. We feel like this is our year to do it.”
Clay (21-7) scratched out the winner in the bottom of the fourth when Jordan Desuyo lined a ball to centerfield. Tyler Morris got the green light to try and score from second base and looked like the throw beat him by a step. Not a player known for his speed, Morris arrived at the plate, slid home and jarred the ball loose from catcher Alex Willich.
“He told me, two strikes, two outs, so I’m running on anything,” Morris said. “Three-quarters of the way home, I saw the ball hit the pitcher’s mound, and I figured I better turn on the burners.”
The Sharks went up 2-0 in the third on a two-run homer by Max Miller. Clay countered in the bottom of the frame, a two-strike single by Luke Suchon that drove in two runs.
“This was two heavyweights going at it,” said Ponte Vedra coach Tom Stanton. “It was exciting, intense, dramatic, all of it. It was the kind of game we expected it to be.”
Clay will host Lynn Haven Mosley on Tuesday in the regional final.
Episcopal took advantage of five errors to overcome visiting Trinity Christian 4-3. After Trinity fought back from three runs down, the Eagles’ Quinn Pattillo raced home from second to score the game-ending run after the Conquerors dropped a fly ball.
Greg Shannahan pitched a four-hit complete game, striking out nine.
Trinity Christian (13-14) scored three unearned runs to tie the score in the seventh.
Episcopal (19-10) will host Pensacola Catholic on Friday.
Providence sealed a return to the regional finals with a 10-5 victory over visiting Eagle’s View (14-14). Jay Prather doubled, tripled, and drove in three runs as the Stallions (22-7) stampeded for three runs in the fifth and five more in the sixth. Zeke Malz added two-run homer. The Stallions travel to Tallahassee to face North Florida Christian at 4 p.m. Friday.
A nightmarish seventh inning meant the end of the season for Union County in a 3-2 loss at Pierson Taylor.
After allowing one hit through six innings, the Tigers stumbled at the end with several hits, an error, and back-to-back walks that forced in the tying and winning runs with two outs.