ORANGE PARK – St. Johns Country Day Spartans Head Baseball Coach Tom Lucas could not have scripted a better opener for his young team with 8A-Fleming Island High School coming in loaded for bear …
ORANGE PARK – St. Johns Country Day Spartans Head Baseball Coach Tom Lucas could not have scripted a better opener for his young team with 8A-Fleming Island High School coming in loaded for bear and having an obvious size advantage. The two dugouts looked like a mismatched David vs. Goliath was about to begin.
With Fleming Island rocking the Spartans defense for five runs in the fifth, Lucas and his Spartans orchestrated a comeback of epic proportions led by two homers from freshman Tanner Zellem and a walkoff gamewinner from Cody Myers as St. Johns prevailed 6-5 in front of their home crowd plus a ton of Fleming Island followers.
“That’s what I was more proud about than anything. A lot of teams quit there,” said Lucas of his teams moxie. “You have to go with some young guys, an eighth grader comes out of the bullpen, my little leftie, and gets us the two outs we needed. They’re not scared. They are going to go in there and give us everything they have. That’s what we love as coaches. I got nine or 10 guys I’ll put against anybody.”
The Spartans drew first blood with a Hunter Russel single RBI in the second inning before Zellem blasted his first homer; a two-run shot, to put St. Johns up 3-0.
Fleming Island, behind a walk to Sammy Kondroik, got a two run homer from Aiden Mastantuno en route to a 3-2 score in the fifth. Two field errors on singles put the fourth and fifth runs on the board for Fleming Island.
“I told them make them earn all nine outs (remaining in the game at that point)” said Lucas. “Put yourself in a situation where you have a chance to come back.”
In the sixth, Spartan catcher Tyler Kuramoto singled to set up a second dinger from Zellem that tied the game at 5-5.
“I turned and saw the coach give what I thought was a sign for a fast ball” said Zellem. “I just saw it right out of his hand and it was right in the strike zone.”
In the eighth inning, with two baserunners for St. Johns, Russell hit a pop fly toward third base where Mercer misread the ball to load the bases.
After a first pitch strike, a foul, and a swing for strike two, Myers connected on a blazing grounder to left field. Fleming Island outfielder Scott Kondroik couldn’t make a play on the low shot which allowed Britts to seal the deal 6-5 and shut down opening night with a dramatic eight inning thriller that will be the talk of Spartan baseball for the rest of this season.