Raiders win 8th straight

Alachua County is on spring break this week.

But Santa Fe (Alachua) baseball is not playing that way.

The Raiders scored three runs in the top of the first inning at North Marion to set the tone in an 8-4 district win against last year’s Class 4A state runners-up.

“Any time you can score first it kind of relaxes you a little bit,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yeckring. “I told our guys to come out and strike first and then we’ll hand it over to our pitching staff after that.”

On Monday, Santa Fe defeated Vanguard in Ocala, 14-2, keeping its current winning streak intact.

Devan Mitchum reached on an infield hit and then a couple of batters later twin brother Devante Mitchum hit his first home run, a 2-run shot to left center, as the Raiders (8-1) won their eighth straight game since a season-opening 3-1 loss to the Colts on Feb. 22.

“It felt great,” Devante Mitchum said of the win. “I’m glad we came out with good energy. We just came and did our thing and played our best baseball.”

However, the Colts answered in the bottom of the first inning.

Devan Mitchum gave up a hit to Cooper Jones to start the bottom of the first and then walked the next three batters.

Dylan Evans came in relief and got JT Kinsey to ground into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, scoring the second run of the inning, before retiring the next two batters.

Santa Fe answered with a run in the top of the second for a 4-2 lead as Tyler Whitworth scored on a wild pitch.

It would stay that way until the top of the fifth when the Raiders, who improved to 2-1 in 4A-District 4, sent nine batters to the plate and scored three runs, giving Santa Fe a 7-2 lead.

With one out, Matt Geelhoed doubled and later scored on a wild pitch. Whitworth, who would add an RBI double in the seventh inning, picked up an RBI on a fielder’s choice, and then Evans singled in a run.

“They can swing the bat over there, so we needed to keep scoring runs and extend the lead,” Yeckring said. “Especially in this park and the way they hit, no lead is safe, so we needed to keep scoring.”

North Marion (3-5, 1-1) did add two more in the fifth on doubles by Jake Tompkins and Rowan Quartararo to make it 7-4.

But closer Connor Brown, who entered in the sixth inning, struck out three of the four batters he faced to get his fourth save.

“When the game is on the line, I’m going to throw Connor Brown out there every single time,” Yecking said. “He’s our dude late in the game and if we have the lead in the sixth or seventh inning, you can expect to see him on the mound.”

Santa Fe, which is playing with a lot of confidence, will play its third game in three day when it travels to Keystone Heights on Wednesday.

“We all play together,” Devante Mitchum said. “We’re really close. We’re just playing excellent baseball right now.”

The first pitch against the Indians is at 7 p.m.

“We’re still trying to figure things out daily,” Yeckring said. “We’ve got to come out and play with energy. We can’t play like we’re on spring break. Three games in three days is not an excuse. We’ve got to be ready to play our best baseball.”

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