Blue Wave claim second straight district title
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:45 p.m.
As his team's missed scoring chances mounted and mistakes piled up, P.K. Yonge coach Brian Simmons could not help but feel a familiar lurch in his stomach.
The same inconsistency that led to the Blue Wave's 2-6 start to this season had reared its head again entering a tied sixth inning of Thursday's District 3-3A championship game against top-seeded Orange Park St. Johns Country Day.
“We hit balls hard right at people, we had bad base-running mistakes and it was just one of those games where we couldn't seem to put it all together,” Simmons said. “But I trust these guys, and we're a great team. I kind of felt like eventually something's going to happen.”
Winners of 12 of their last 18 games heading into this week's tournament at St. Francis, P.K. Yonge's players once again proved to their coach that they had the resiliency to pull out an ugly win.
Following an outfield error that allowed senior Evan Wilder to reach third, the No. 2-seed Blue Wave finally broke through in the sixth with a run scored on a passed ball to earn a 3-1 win and their second straight district title.
Sophomore second baseman Fletcher Simmons tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when he launched an RBI double over the right fielder's head that scored pinch-runner D'Karas Fields.
P.K. Yonge had previously stranded seven men on base.
“I've never had such a great feeling in my life,” said the younger Simmons, who had three hits and a walk. “My team, this year, we're not as good as we were a year ago, so they're depending on me. And I've done my best to do what I can.”
In the first inning, the Blue Wave didn't looked anything like last season's regional finalists when Spartans leadoff hitter Cody Bishop opened the scoring on an error, a steal and two consecutive passed balls.
Though he would go 2-for-3 at the plate, Wilder struggled with his control on the mound before being pulled for reliever Van Turner (second save) in the sixth with no outs. Wilder, a lefty, permitted nine of his team's 10 walks but kept the Spartans hitless to earn his fourth win of the season.
The Blue Wave, who compiled eights hits and drew six walks, scored a run on each of St. Johns Country Day's three pitchers.
“The pitching for both sides was struggling a little bit,” said Simmons, who is in his eighth season with the Blue Wave. “Evan certainly didn't have his best stuff, but he battled through it.”
P.K. Yonge (15-12) advances to host next Thursday's regional quarterfinal at 7 p.m. against the loser of the District 4-3A championship game. As district runner-up, St. Johns Country Day (18-3) travels to the winner.