The Clay High Blue Devils baseball team suffered a 7-1 loss at home Tuesday night in the FHSAA 5A Regional Championship to the Columbia Tigers.
The game was originally scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. but multiple lightning delays pushed the game back to an 8:15 start time. However, Clay County came out to support the Blue Devils as they had over 1,000 people show up for their game against Columbia. Clay High gave away 100 free tickets to students and over 30 baseball alumni showed up for the home team, with half of the alumni helping clean up the field after the rain delay to ensure the game started on time.
Clay fell to a 3-0 deficit through the first four innings. Clay’s lone run was an Aidan Hampton inside-the-park home run on a line drive to right field. Clay looked to spark a comeback but was put out of reach with a Columbia grand slam in the top of the seventh inning. Columbia got the side out to finish Clay’s season.
Columbia will play against the American Heritage Patriots Monday morning for the 5A FHSAA Baseball Semi-Final.
Clay had many uncertainties heading into the season because Clay had only two players returning who were starters from 2022. However, Clay High responded with a 23-7 record with the one seed through the playoffs. Clay finished as the 32nd-best team in Florida, the fifth-best team in 5A and the fifth-best team in the Jacksonville area. Clay had an 11-4 record at home, an 8-2 record on the road and a 4-1 record at neutral site games.
Clay High will lose many players who contributed to graduation in Eli Roberts, Chase Haggard, Josh Rouw, Aidan Hampton, Sean Alvers and Nick Ranck. However, Clay High will have many starters returning in 2024. Those players include Cole Carnell, Easton McMahan, Parker Lowrance, Preston Andrews, Merrick Rapoza and Collin Briggs.