Santa Fe’s formula for the past three seasons under coach Travis Yeckring has revolved around shutdown pitching, excellent defense and enough clutch hits on offenses to be successful.
And with senior pitcher Zane Starling back and healthy for the Raiders baseball team, they are dominant on the mound and at the plate early this season.
Starling, a University of North Florida signee, struck out 10 Suwannee batters and allowed only one hit over 4.2 innings while adding a key two-run double to put Santa Fe (5-1) in control as the Raiders blanked the visiting Bulldogs 6-0 in Alachua on Tuesday night.
Suwannee (Live Oak), a 4A state semifinalist a year ago, dropped to 1-4 with their fourth straight loss.
“This has kind of been our formula for three years now,” Yeckring said. “Pitch pretty well, play good defense, and get four or five quality hits. We also feel pretty confident running Zane (Starling) out there, but we also feel pretty comfortable running eight arms deep.”
Starling walked Suwannee’s leadoff batter Noah Lopez to start the game, but Lopez was thrown out trying to steal second by Santa Fe catcher Kyler Nowling. Starling struck out the next two batters to end the first inning.
After striking out two batters in the second and third innings, Starling gave up a two-out single to Suwannee’s Chason Blocker. But Nowling caught Blocker attempting to steal second to end the third inning.
After striking out the first two hitters in the top of the fifth, Starling was pulled after 73 pitches.
“We are going to keep rolling him (Starling) out there once a week, but we are going to take care of him,” Yeckring said. “He wanted to keep going but it’s early in the year and it’s a long season. We need him in April and May, we don’t need him to throw 100 pitches tonight.”
Senior reliever Joey Malphurs finished with 2.1 shutout innings and three strikeouts.
Santa Fe got all the offense they would need in the second inning. Earl Findley walked, went to third base on a single by Dylan Lovelace and scored on a passed ball. Then senior third baseman Dylan Evans blasted his first homer of the season down the left field line for a 3-0 lead.
The Raiders picked up three runs in the fourth after a Suwannee error and walk. Starling made it 5-0 with a two-run double to center field and courtesy runner Don’trell Jenkins scored on a single by Dalton Dampier.
Santa Fe will travel to Crystal River on Wednesday while Suwannee heads to Buchholz on Friday.
P.K. Yonge 11, Dixie County (Cross City) 7 – After a slow start through three innings Tuesday, P.K. Yonge scored 11 runs over the next three to rally past visiting Dixie County, 11-7, the Blue Wave’s fifth consecutive baseball win.
Seniors Aidan Mansfield (three runs batted in), Jacob Pridgen (RBI double, run-scoring single) and Zander Sanetz (three runs) led the way for the Blue Wave (5-2). Micah Gratto and Lane Sparkman also had run-producing hits.
Dixie County (1-3) led 2-0 and was no-hitting PKY behind the pitching of Andrew Pleasant through three innings. The Blue Wave then scored three runs in the fourth, five in the fifth and three more in the sixth to pull away.
Gratto picked up his first win on the mound, going 5 innings on 84 pitches. Nick Roach closed it for P.K. Yonge to earn the save.
The Blue Wave visit Eastside for a 6:30 p.m. game Thursday.