Sharks edge Clay to claim district title


Special to the Recorder

The past week was a good one for Shark baseball. After finishing third in the tightly packed 6A District 4 standings with a 5-3 record behind Clay and Ridgeview, the Sharks put together exciting 2-1 and 3-2 playoff victories over those same teams to walk off with the district title.

Oddly, due to seeding positions, Ponte Vedra – the playoffs’ host – was the visiting team in both games. This is because in April, Ponte Vedra had split a pair with Ridgeview and lost back-to-back games with Clay, leaving the Sharks as the third seed in the tournament they were scheduled to host.

On Tuesday’s playoff matchup, Ponte Vedra sent Kevin Faulkner to the mound to face the Panthers of Ridgeview and the junior lefty pitched brilliantly for seven innings to earn the win.

The Sharks jumped in front in the first inning on base hits by Jacob Young and Quinton Brehm, but Ridgeview tied the game in the fifth. Slick fielding by the Sharks’ infield on a 6-4-3 double play kept the Panthers from scoring more in the inning. An earlier double play nullified two Ridgeview base hits in the Panther third.

Zach Chappell led off the seventh inning for the Sharks with a sharp double to the gap in center, and moved to third on Alex Ortiz’ sac bunt. Senior catcher Michael Zenni’s single to left plated the go-ahead run. Faulkner retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh, striking out the last Panther on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.

In their matchup with Clay, the Sharks started Zach Chappell and the lefty battled through four and 2/3rd tough innings. An unusual 6-5-6-5 double play limited the Blue Devils to two first-inning runs despite a single, a pair of walks and a wild pitch.

The Sharks fought back to tie the game in the third. After Eric Aleman reached on an error, Brehm laced a double just inside of the third base bag. Chappell’s liner back to the pitcher was misplayed into a two-base error, scoring Aleman and Brehm.

Tony Roca relieved Chappell in the fourth and pitched superbly into the tenth inning, striking out 10 and allowing just one hit. A fine running catch in the eighth by centerfielder Young helped.

Neither team threatened from the third until the tenth, when Shark second baseman Matt Barnhorst finally laced a lead-off single to right. After Young moved him over on a sac bunt, Aleman’s sharp ground ball off the shortstop’s glove rolled into short left field allowing Barnhorst to score the go ahead run. Roca sealed the 3-2 win by striking out the side in the bottom of the tenth.