Santa Fe High Baseball Claims Back-to-Back District Titles

The Santa Fe Raiders baseball team secured back-to-back district titles Thursday night in a defensive battle against the Dunnellon Tigers. Santa Fe sophomore Conner Brown led the Raiders with elite pitching and by capitalizing in crucial moments at the plate. Brown tallied 8 strikeouts and 2 RBIs.

Deviating from Normalcy

Brown and junior Zane Starling swapped pitching roles for the district championship. Typically, Starling will take the mound as the starter, and Brown will serve as the closer late in the game. Due to Brown’s consistent pitching as of late, Santa Fe Coach Travis Yeckring named him the starter for the game. This decision proved to work to the Raiders’ advantage as Brown pitched six strong innings, and Starling concluded the game with two strikeouts.

Even Through One

A common theme throughout the game for both teams was leaving runners stranded on base. In the top of the first inning, Dunnellon loaded the bases quickly, but Brown was able to escape without giving up any runs. 

Dunnellon pitcher Trent Townsend walked three Raider runners to load the bases in the bottom of the first inning. With bases loaded, Townsend walked Kyler Nowling, allowing Devante Mitchum to stroll home for the first Raider run of the night.

It didn’t take long for Dunnellon to respond as Gavyn Leinenbach tallied a run in the top of the second inning to even the score 1-1. 

Third Inning Burst

Townsend continued to struggle on the mound in the bottom of the third inning. Devante Mitchum, Matthew Geelhoed and Nowling were all walked to load the bases for Santa Fe. Geelhoed didn’t even face a pitch because the Tigers chose to intentionally walk him.

With Brown up to bat and the bases loaded, the Raiders could sense electricity in the air. Sure enough, Brown swung at a solid pitch, bringing Devante Mitchum and Geelhoed home. 

Battle of the Pitchers

Entering the fourth inning down 3-1, Dunnellon elected to make a pitching change, bringing freshman Mark Pastorella to the mound. Pastorella held his own, dealing four strikeouts and not allowing any hits or runs.

However, Brown continued to pitch a phenomenal game, also dealing strikeouts through the sixth inning. Starling took over pitching duties in the seventh inning, facing four batters and delivering two strikeouts to secure the victory.

How Deep Will the Raiders Go?

Toughness. Battle. Keep believing. Trust your teammates.

Those are the keys to advancing deep in the Florida high school baseball state playoffs according to Coach Yeckring.

The Raiders will host the first round of the region playoffs on May 11. The last time Santa Fe advanced to the regional final was in 2018. 

About Shailey Klein

Shailey Klein is a first-year journalism major specializing in sports and media at UF.

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