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Raiders defeats Suwannee Bulldogs

SF_2011_District_Champs 

The Santa Fe High School baseball team claimed the Class 3A District 5 Championship after defeating the Suwannee Bulldogs 9-5. Bottom row L-R:  Kirby Snead, Nathan Snead (bat boy) 2nd row L-R:  Josh Tileston, Lake Hart, Ben Sollenberger, Sam Markowitz, Shane Metzler 3rd row L-R: Logan Malphurs, Blake Cox, Kyle Brooks, Bryan Evans, Zach Lightsey, Christian Tompkins, Stephen Tapia-Ruano 4th row L-R: Dalton Alligood, Taylor Cain, Joey Dinardo.

Bases loaded, two outs and an energetic Santa Fe fan section cheers for the Raider defense.

Despite the four run lead in the top of the seventh inning, the momentum is clearly in favor of the Suwannee Bulldogs.

The pitch is hit and the line drive heads toward left field. Every fan, Suwannee and Santa Fe, stands in anticipation of the sprinting left fielder.

The player dives for the ball. The crowd is silent. No one knew what the outcome was until the outfielder jumped up, enthusiastically revealing the caught ball in his glove.

Santa Fe Raiders pull out the 9-5 victory in the Class 3A District 5 Championship game against the Suwannee Bulldogs.

The last time Santa Fe won the district championship game was in 2007.

Head Coach Todd Brooks said he could not be prouder of his players and what they have been able to accomplish.

“I told the seniors when I was hired that I wanted to get them a district championship,” Brooks said. “And we did it.”

Each team’s first at-bat failed to grab a run. It seemed as though the Raiders would continue its streak of starting slow and finishing strong.

In the second inning, the Raiders’ bats came alive.

No. 5, Taylor Cain, started the inning off with a single. Sam Markowitz, No. 4, grabbed another single for Raiders’ offense. After a couple of stolen bases, the runners were in scoring position.

Shortstop Kyle Brooks stepped up to the plate and hit a double, scoring both runners. After stealing third base, Brooks was able to steal home on a wild throw from the catcher.

Logan Malphurs, third base, followed Brooks’ double with another double and No. 8, Bryan Evans, hit a RBI single.

Brooks finished the game 2-3 with one run and two RBIs. Cain was 2-4 with one run.

Malphurs ended the game 3-4 with two runs.

“Suwannee had a good pitcher tonight but I was just feeling it,” Malphurs said.

He had a hard time describing his feelings after the game was over.

“I was just so excited. I don’t even know what to say. I am definitely not going to have a voice tomorrow, that’s for sure,” Malphurs said.

The Bulldogs were able to get their first runs against pitcher Kirby Snead in the third. Suwannee tallied up two runs but the Raider offense came out in the bottom of the third and scored one when No. 13, Zach Lightsey, stole home on a wild pitch.

After the fourth inning, the Raiders were winning 6-2 as another run was scored when Malphurs also stole home on a wild pitch.

Snead pitched 6 and 2/3 innings and threw a total of 114 pitches. In that time he struck out seven and allowed five runs.

“I felt pretty good about it. I knew we were facing a really good team in Suwannee and coming out here and getting this win is a great feeling,” Snead said. “For all these seniors out here that have never won it before, it’s a great feeling and I’m glad I could do my part.”

The coaches made the decision to take him out after the Bulldogs were able to grab a couple of runs in the top of the seventh. Snead received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“Every pitcher wants to finish a game he starts, but getting the win is more important,” Snead said. “I just came out here and gave my heart, my whole 100 percent effort.”

Assistant Coach John Pricher said besides a little bit of jitters in the beginning of the game, he started to pitch better throughout. He even thought Snead’s velocity picked up through the middle innings.

“We always want him to get as deep into the game as we can,” Pricher said. “We hoped he would finish it but he pitched excellent and that’s what we wanted. We’ve been trying to get him to pitch like that all year.”

Pricher said Snead has improved a lot over the past couple of games.

In the fifth inning Suwannee was able to get a run but Santa Fe scored another three to put the score at 9-3. Neither team scored a run in the sixth inning.

Christian Tomkins came in to pitch for the Raiders during the intensely pressured final out.

The game ended with Ben Sollenburger making the diving catch in left field.

“I’m feeling pretty good and I’m glad I could do my part,” Sollenburger said. “I just kept thinking… Stay in my glove. Stay in my glove.”

He said after the ball was hit he could see it was tailing away and he knew he would have to sprint with everything he had to have the chance to catch it.

Shedrick Honeycutt, the hitting coach for Santa Fe, said he was happy the team starting hitting early in the game.

“Our hitters did what I taught them and that’s all you can ask for as a hitting coach,” Honeycutt said. “Coach Brooks and I made a promise that if we got to this point, we would handle our part and make sure we win the game.”

The Santa Fe Raiders now move on to regional level.

“Whatever happens now is icing on the cake but I want to keep it going. I’m not done until we get to state,” Brooks said. “Great day to be a Raider!”