The Santa Fe (Alachua) baseball team needed to score a few more runs than usual on Thursday night against visiting Baker County (Glen St. Mary).
Starting pitcher Zane Starling gave up his first run of the season and trailed, 3-1, in the second inning, but the Raiders kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard the rest of the way in a 6-3 victory to win the Class 4A-District 2 title.
“It feels great,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yeckring. “It kind of puts a stamp on the season that we had. But we’re not satisfied. We want to keep playing.”
Baker County (13-15), which upset 4A No. 1 Clay (Green Cove Springs) in Tuesday’s semifinals, scored three runs on four hits and an error in the top of the second to take a 3-1 lead against Starling, who entered the game with a 0.00 earned run average.
“It’s tough on a young kid like that, when you give up three, sometimes you just kind of collapse,” Yeckring said. “But he stood tall and came in the dugout and said, ‘they’re not getting anymore.’”
Starling came through at the plate in the bottom of the second with an RBI double to make it 3-2.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Landon Rogers laid down a sacrifice bunt on the first base side to score Starling, who had walked, to tie the game.
“When we were down I just told our guys, ‘look, we’ve found ways to win all year, don’t panic’ and we were able to get into their bullpen and take advantage of them losing the strike zone a little bit,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yecking.
With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Raiders (23-2) took advantage of back-to-back walks to start the inning.
Sophomore Dalton Dampier laid down a perfect bunt on the third base line for an infield hit to load the bases with no outs.
Senior JT Thornton was hit by a pitch to give Santa Fe the go-ahead run. A wild pitch made it 5-3, and junior Devante Mitchum had a sacrifice fly to give the Raiders a 6-3 lead.
Freshman Conner Brown entered in the sixth inning and retired five of the seven batters that he faced, including three strikeouts.
Santa Fe will host a first round playoff game on Thursday, May 6, by virtue of winning the district.
“We love playing here,” Yeckring said. “I’m so proud of them. I’m tough on them at practice but it’s so they can have this feeling.”