State’s top two 4A baseball teams set to clash tonight

On Thursday night the Santa Fe (Alachua) baseball team will host Clay (Green Cove Springs) in a Class 4A-District 2 showdown featuring the top two teams in the state.

Santa Fe is ranked number one in Class 4A, while the visiting Blue Devils are ranked second in the state in 4A.

“Great opportunity for the program and for our kids,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yeckring. “I know it’s not the postseason, but the fact that Santa Fe High School is playing a home game late in the year featuring No. 1 vs No. 2 is really exciting and special. Obviously, it being a district game just adds a little bit extra to the hype.”

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It’s been a great season so far for Santa Fe. The Raiders are 15-1, with their only loss coming at Columbia (Lake City) on Feb. 23.

Santa Fe is batting .291 as a team, led by senior Greg Falck, who sports a .409 batting average.

Junior Devante Mitchum (.333 average) leads the team with 13 runs driven in.

“I’m very encouraged by how we have played so far,” Yecking said. “I’m most pleased by our level of consistency we have been able to bring to the ballpark day in and day out. We have a mature approach to our preparation.”

Pitching is a big reason why they’ve had so much success. The Raiders have only given up one run in their past three games.

They defeated Eastside, 11-1, at home on Tuesday night. Junior Devan Mitchum, Devante’s twin brother, got the win on the mound.

The Raiders posted back-to-back shutouts prior to that with a 2-0 win at home against West Nassau (Callahan) last Friday and an 11-0 win at Dunnellon last Thursday.

Zane Starling (3-0) got the win in the previous game against the Warriors, throwing 6.1 innings and allowing no runs on five hits with only two walks and eight strikeouts.

Freshman Connor Brown came in relief and got the save. Starling has a 0.00 earned run average in 25-plus innings pitched.

As a team, the Raiders have a sparkling 0.82 team ERA.

However, the visiting Blue Devils (15-3) enter with a .320 batting average and have hit 29 doubles and four home runs.

“Clay is very, very, good in all phases of the game,” Yeckring said. “For us to limit them offensively we will need to be the aggressor and that starts with throwing strike one consistently, get ahead in the count, change speeds, and play solid, fundamental, defense.”

Senior Ryan Brown (7-0) is expected to take the mound for Santa Fe. He carries a 0.17 ERA to go along with 63 strikeouts and only eight walks in 41.1 innings pitched.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Yeckring said. “We know we will have to play well and execute the little things against an extremely talented and well coached Clay team.”

The first pitch is at 6 p.m.

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