Julington Creek Cobras Repeat as Florida District 2 Champions
The Julington Creek Cobras followed a nearly identical path as 2017 to successfully defend their District 2 Championship in June 2018. The Cobras won their first game before dropping the second – which forced them to navigate the losers bracket all the through the championship game. Head Coach Todd Hall commented, “I felt the path was a lot more stressful this year. We didn’t have much for expectations last year, so everyone just enjoyed the ride. Expectations were much higher this year, so when we lost that second game, it was time to get serious. The boys responded with great poise and purpose. It was a lot of fun to watch them step up and play to their potential.”
The first game of the tournament had the Cobras pitted against their in-park rival, the Julington Creek Sandlot. The Cobras proved ready for the challenge with a stout defense and strong pitching from Jackson Carper. The Cobras pounded out 10 hits to score 17 runs, while holding the Sandlot scoreless. In fact, the Cobras allowed only one runner to reach second base all night – and promptly picked him off to end the game.
Game 2 did not produce the same results in the field or at the plate. Managing only five hits on the night, the Cobras committed nine errors, which predictably resulted in a lopsided score for the San Jose All-Stars. The final score was 13-3. “The boys were sloppy right from the start of the game,” Coach Hall said, “it was just a poor effort all the way around. We knew we couldn’t dwell on that performance. We had to focus on winning three more games. That was it.” During the post-game discussion, the coaches realized the Cobras faced the exact predicament the previous year, and came out on top. Assistant Coach Tim Burke said, “I knew the boys had it in them. I knew we were going to come back and win the tournament. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind.”
After two nights of rain delays, the Cobras faced off, once again against the Sandlot, who had just defeated the Villages. Kieran Burke and Ryan Gregory combined to hold the Sandlot scoreless once again. Cooper Hall led a balanced offense with two hits and the Cobras scored 10 runs to force a mercy rule game ending against the Sandlot for the second time in the week. As it was the second game on the schedule for the night, the Cobras did not leave the ballpark until 11pm, with the championship scheduled for 11am the following day.
With the double elimination format of the tournament, the Cobras knew they would be required to beat San Jose in two consecutive games to retain the district title. The Cobras were up for the task. Jackson Carper toed the mound for the Cobras and pitched an outstanding game. He pitched six complete innings without allowing a hit. The entire team was sharp in the field, committing only one error. The offense, led by Mikey Grimaldi, did just enough to score three runs to secure a victory. “The entire team played very clean baseball this morning,” remarked Coach Hall. “Obviously, Jackson pitched a heck-of-a game for us. But all of our boys were sharp in the field. It was a good team win.”
With the first win of the day, the Cobras forced a second, winner-take-all championship game against the same San Jose All-Star team. Riding a wave of confidence, and having deflated San Jose’s aspirations with a shut out performance, the Cobras used clutch pitching and defensive play to claim the championship. After Cole Anderson walked the first three batters to start the game, Ryan Gregory was called to the mound. In spectacular fashion, Gregory induced a 1-2-3 double play, followed by a pop-up to get out of the inning without allowing a run. “That first inning performance by Ryan was absolutely clutch for us. That set the tone for us, and really extinguished any hope for them,” Coach Hall noted.
The Cobras took advantage of the shift in momentum to score three runs in the bottom of the first frame. Gregory pitched into the third inning, when San Jose managed to load the bases again. This time, it was Easton Alberts who came to the rescue. He secured the final two outs while only ceding one run. The Cobras were leading 3-1. Timely offense and aggressive baserunning sparked the Cobras to score another 3 runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. With bases loaded, Sean Johnston hit a line drive that skirted past the second baseman and scored two runs. “That was definitely the clutch hit of the day for us,” Coach Hall said. “The game was still tight at that point. Those runs allowed us to take a deep breath.”
With a 6-1 lead, the San Jose All-Stars threatened again in the fifth inning. Placing multiple runners on base, Mikey Grimaldi’s number was called to shut down the rally. The Cobras allowed a second run, but then responded with another three of their own in the bottom half of the inning. The Cobras tried to make the game interesting with a couple miscues in the top of the 6th, allow bases to get full once again, before securing the final out on a stumbling catch by Jonathan Stoner.
Coach Hall summed up the game and week, “That was a complete team win. Every single player on our team contributed in some way. We got such clutch performances on the mound today. From Jackson in the first game, to Ryan, Easton, and Mikey coming up big in the championship. These young men really rose to the occasion. How much fun is that?!”
In the end, the Cobras won 4 of 5 games on the week, then final 3 being elimination games. They now travel to Live Oak, FL to play in the Florida State North Championship Tournament. The action will start on July 6th.