Ryan Brown of Santa Fe (Alachua) struck out the first batter he faced, and the West all-stars took advantage of two hit batsmen in the bottom of the first for a 3-0 win against the East on Saturday at the North Florida All-Star Series Baseball Classic at Santa Fe High School in Alachua.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yeckring, who was the head coach of the West all-star team. “We had a great group of guys who came in and just said ‘whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it, we just want to play and have fun.’ It was just great being around all of these guys.”
Seniors from Buchholz, Columbia (Lake City), Newberry, and Suwannee (Live Oak), among others, highlighted the West team, which scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Mason Gray of Columbia and Brett Blair (Stanford signee) of Buchholz scored after being hit by a pitch, and Buchholz’s Cole Smithers (Palm Beach State) singled and scored.
“A lot of these guys I’ve known for a long time so being back on the baseball field for one last time before we are all off to college was a great experience to have,” said Gray, who signed with Flagler College.
Tmoriyon Paul of Class 1A state semifinalist Hamilton County (Jasper) also contributed with an RBI groundout to third base.
“This was an amazing opportunity,” said Union County’s Braxton Dukes, who got a chance to pitch two innings in relief. “I’ve played with almost every single one of these guys before in travel ball and Little League, played against them my whole life, so it was a great opportunity to get to play together one last time before we all go our separate ways.”
A total of 13 players on the West roster were from Class 1A teams.
“They (East) said they’ve never even heard of a 1A team and we beat them 3-0 and it should have been a lot worse too,” said Dukes, who signed with Tallahassee Community College.
Weather put a damper on the round-robin tournament as the East-South game and the West-South game were canceled due to rain.
Fortunately, the West was able to play a complete game and compete one last time at the high school level.
It reflected the kind of year that the area had with Newberry winning the Class 1A state title, Santa Fe finishing with its best regular season winning percentage in school history, and Buchholz making the state playoffs.
“We were kind of talking and said, ‘what if we could play together for a travel ball tournament this summer,” Yeckring said. “We felt like this West team could be pretty dominant. I’m glad that we got to join up for at least one game.”