JACKSONVILLE – As Fleming Island head coach Marty Lanoux addressed his team after a hard fought 2-1 victory over Atlantic Coast in the District 2-8A championship game he couldn’t help to remember …
JACKSONVILLE – As Fleming Island head coach Marty Lanoux addressed his team after a hard fought 2-1 victory over Atlantic Coast in the District 2-8A championship game he couldn’t help to remember the last time they played on March 27. Lanoux, who has seen his Golden Eagles’ team not get sidetracked by near-miss losses throughout their 10 wins, 13 loss season, commended his team for playing tough to the very end.
“Last time we faced these guys, we lost 2-1 and we didn’t execute in the late innings,” said Lanoux. “Tonight, we were able to execute.”
Thursday night the roles were reversed and the Golden Eagle executed late in the game to capture the District 2-8A Championship at Atlantic Coast. Fleming Island (10-13-1) advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals and will host Tallahassee Lincoln (14-11) on Tues., May 8 at 7 p.m. Lincoln is the defending Class 8A champion with a 5-1 win over Hagerty High School.
On the opposite side of the region bracket, Atlantic Coast (6-13) will travel to Tallahassee Chiles (14-10).
Fleming Island batter Drew Wilkerson lead-off the top of the eighth inning with a single to left center, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Noah McCollum, advanced to third on a wild pitch and after two intentional walks to load the bases scored on a wild pitch for the game-winning run. Cole Belcher was at the plate when the run scored.
“We were able to execute and push across the game-winning run,” said Lanoux. “The leadoff single and then the sacrifice bunt were the key to our success.”
Freshman left-hander Aiden Mastantuno fired a complete game three hitter over eight innings and added six strikeouts while walking one batter. The crafty lefty threw only 61 pitches including 35 for strikes, and induced 10 fly-outs.
“I wanted to throw strikes and let my defense make plays behind me,” said Mastantuno. “I hit my locations tonight.”
The Golden Eagles (9-13-1) were able to push a run across in the top of the fifth inning when Tyler Hudson scored on a hit and run triple to right field line by junior Adam Peck but that run wouldn’t hold up unfortunately for the Golden Eagles.
“I saw it was a curveball and I was able to open up my hips and drive the ball down the right field line,” said Peck.
The Stingrays (6-13) tied the game at one in the top of the sixth inning when leadoff hitter Alex Parcell scored on Jared Cox’s RBI single to left center.
In two other district championship baseball games, St. Johns Country Day School lost 5-0 to University Christian in the district 2-3A title game while Clay, a region finalist in 2017, lost 6-4 to Ponte Vedra for a second consecutive year in the district 4-6A final after giving up five runs in the second inning. Clay’s loss comes after Ponte Vedra dumped Ridgeview 7-4 in the district semifinal in an upset win. Ridgeview beat Ponte Vedra in regular season play twice; 11-1 and 5-0. Clay beat Orange Park 10-0 in their semifinal.
For St. Johns, it was UC pitcher Darien Smith, a Jacksonville University commit, who stifled the Spartan batting lineup with 10 strikeouts and just two hits. St. Johns used three pitchers; Brad Hodges, Troy Britts and Finn Howell to try and stop the UC attack with Hodges getting the loss.
In region playoffs, Clay (21-6) travels to Stanton (19-5-1) on Tues, May 8 with Ponte Vedra (14-12) hosting Terry Parker (19-7-1). St. Johns (11-13) travels to North Florida Christian (22-3) while University Christian (18-9) hosts Tallahassee Maclay (17-10).