Santa Fe (Alachua) battled from behind twice, but the third time wasn’t the charm as visiting Clay (Green Cove Springs) came away with a 12-9, 10-inning 4A Region 4 quarterfinals win on Wednesday.
The No. 4 seeded Raiders (20-7) erased deficits of 5-0 and 7-5 but entered the bottom of the 10th inning down 12-7 before loading the bases with one out against the No. 5 seeded Blue Devils (18-10).
Devan Mitchum drove in a run while Cove forced Tyler Whitworth out at second base for the second out, followed by a Dylan Evans’ one-run single to shallow center field. With two runners on first and second, Devante Mitchum hit to the Clay third baseman who tagged his base for the final out.
“I can’t express how proud I am of this group,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yeckring. “It wouldn’t have hurt as bad if we didn’t fight like we did and yes, we won’t give up. That’s why I love this team, that’s why it hurts like it does because we’re going to fight to the last. Even in the last inning, we had the tying run at the plate, we pushed [Clay] to the wall.”
It was the third time the two squads have met the past two seasons and each time the contest has extended into extra innings. The Raiders edged the Blue Devils on the road, 2-1 in nine innings, on April 12, and lost 5-4 in 14 innings in a home game during the 2021 season.
“It’s just another classic,” Yeckring said. “Every time we play these guys it goes extra innings. We joked about it before the game and sure enough, it did. They have a really good club. It’s hard right now, but we’ll look back at this game as an instant classic one day.”
It didn’t look as though it would be memorable through the first four and a half innings. Clay scored once in the top of the first and added four runs with two outs in the second inning, chasing Santa Fe starter Zane Starling from the mound after 1.2 innings while snagging a 5-0 lead.
Connor Brown came in and stopped the bleeding by pitching 4.1 shutout innings while Santa Fe’s offense, which sputtered through the first four innings with only three batters getting on base, awoke in the bottom of the fifth by loading the bases on a walk and back-to-back batters hit by a pitch.
Evans then walked to bring in the Raiders’ first score and Matthew Geelhoed nailed a ball deep down the right-field line for a three-run triple to get Santa Fe within 5-4.
In the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Devan Mitchum hit a double followed by Geelhoed’s one-run double to tie the contest, 5-5. Kyler Nowling then launched a shot to center field and Yeckring waved Geelhoed home, but Geelhoed was thrown out at the plate for the final out.
“And they made just one throw from center field that if it’s a foot left or right we win that game,” Yeckring said. “Credit their guy for making a big-time throw.”
Clay leadoff batter smashed the ball over the center field wall to start the eighth inning and the Blue Devils added another run to go ahead 7-5.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brown led off with a single before the next two batters struck out. Whitworth then hit a pop up to the Clay second baseman who dropped the ball. Brown advanced to third base and scored on a passed ball and Don’trell Jenkins, who entered as pinch runner for Whitworth, scored when Devante Mitchum hit a pop up behind first base that was mismanaged by multiple Clay players and tied the game 7-7.
For the game, Geelhoed went 2-for-4 with four RBI and Brown went 2-for-5 and scored twice. Evans and Devante Mitchum added two RBI apiece and Starling scored twice.
Looking back on the season, Yeckring was happy with how the Raiders followed last year’s Santa Fe program-best 23-3 record.
“Coming off last year, we got everyone’s best shot every time we took the field, and to win 20 games and win a district championship, there’s nothing to be disappointed about and I told our guys to be proud of what they accomplished this year,” Yeckring said.
In other regional quarterfinal baseball action, 4A Region 4 No. 1 seed Suwannee (Live Oak) defeated No. 8 seed Baker County (Glen St. Mary), 11-5 and in 2A, North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) beat Oak Hall (Gainesville), 12-2.
In the softball regional quarterfinals, Keystone Heights edged West Nassau (Callahan), 6-4.
Regional Quarterfinals – Wednesday, May 11
Class 4A – No. 1 Suwannee (Live Oak) 11, No. 8 Baker County (Glen St. Mary) 5
Class 4A – No. 5 Clay (Green Cove Springs) 12, No. 4 Santa Fe (Alachua) 9 (10)
Class 2A – No. 2 North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) 12, No. 7 Oak Hall School (Gainesville) 2
Class 5A Regional Semifinals – Thursday, May 12
No. 5 Mosley (Lynn Haven) at No. 1 Columbia (Lake City), 7 p.m.
Class 3A Regional Quarterfinals – Wednesday, May 11
No. 3 Keystone Heights 7, No. 6 West Nassau (Callahan) 4
Regional Quarterfinals – Thursday, May 12
Class 5A – No. 6 Milton at No. 3 Gainesville, 7 p.m.
Class 1A Regional Semifinals – Thursday, May 12
No. 4 Lafayette (Mayo) at Fort White, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Union County (Lake Butler) at No. 2 Madison County, 7 p.m.
No. 4 Trenton at No. 1 Dixie County (Cross City), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Williston at No. 2 Taylor (Pierson), 7 p.m.