Buchholz captures district title with 6-0 victory 

Bobcats rush Wyatt Clarke on the field after he delivers a game-winning strikeout to earn the district title.
Buchholz players rush Wyatt Clarke on the field after he delivers a game-winning strikeout to secure the district title.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Buchholz Bobcats (20-8) captured the FHSAA Class 6A-District 3 title on Friday and punched a ticket to regionals with a 6-0 win over the Fleming Island Golden Eagles (18-10). 

Heavy rains pushed the game from Thursday night, and a lightning delay put a 40-minute delay in the middle of Friday’s game. In the end, the No. 2 seed Bobcats defeated Fleming Island behind the bat of Kai So, who went 2-for-4 with five RBI. 

Buchholz and Fleming Island stayed scoreless through the first and second innings, after the Golden Eagles wasted a scoring chance in the top of the first inning. 

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With J.J. Gardner pitching, leadoff hitter Josh Murray reached first and moved to second on a Tanner Upton bunt. A juggled catch at first allowed Upton to reach first as well.  

One out later, cleanup batter Chris Reali drove a base hit to left field. Bobcat outfielder Austin Middleton fired a strike to catcher Noah Hayse, who tagged Murray well off the plate to end the inning.  

In the bottom of the third, Austin Cardozo and Cooper Collins both singled to start a rally. So then belted a three-run homer to right, giving the Bobcats a 3-0 lead. 

Following a one-out walk, lightning paused the game in the top of the fourth. 

J.J. Gardner pitched the first five innings for the Bobcats.
Photo by Seth Johnson J.J. Gardner shut down Fleming Island for five innings.

Bobcat coach Ron Brooks told his players to get focused heading back onto the field.  

“I’m glad we’re loose. That’s great. But are we focused?” Brooks asked his team. 

The Bobcats responded to his charge on both defense and offense. Gardner dealt a shutdown inning on the mound, allowing the Bobcat offense to go to work.  

Conner Brown and Cardozo both reached base and a walk loaded the bases for So, who hit a two-run single to left for a 5-0 Bobcats lead after five innings.  

Fleming Island substituted Jonah Friedman for starting pitcher Aaron Hawkins in the fifth inning, and the Bobcats replaced Gardner with Wyatt Clarke in the sixth.  

Following five shutout innings from Gardner, Wyatt Clarke came on in relief to start the sixth. He struck out the side but had to work around a double and two walks to leave the bases loaded. He finished off the shutout with two more punchouts in the seventh.

Buchholz earned the No. 1 seed in 6A-Region 1 and will host No. 8 seed New Smyrna Beach (13-11) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the regional quarterfinals.

Kai So tackles pitcher Wyatt Clarke after delivering the game-ending strikeout Friday night.
Photo by Seth Johnson Kai So tackles pitcher Wyatt Clarke after delivering the game-ending strikeout Friday night.

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