Jacob Dennis | Special to The Times
The Valdosta Daily Times
Florida Christian finished the Georgia-Florida Challenge in style Saturday afternoon, using a complete game from pitcher Alex Valverde to discard of host Lowndes 6-2 and finish the tournament with an unblemished record.
Valverde worked through the Vikings lineup quickly and recorded strikeouts in key moments, needing 101 pitches, 56 of which went for strikes, to record the win. The Vikings got to the Patriot starter just once, in the third inning, using consecutive hits from Nick Higginbotham, Cole Bradley and Buck Carter to put a two-spot on the board heading into the fourth inning. At the time, the Vikings trailed just 3-2.
Florida Christian jumped out to an early three-run lead on Lowndes starter Greyson McLeod, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Brandon Chinea and a walk by Ruben Someillan before power hitter Michael Fernandez hit a ball off the bottom of the wall in right-center.
McLeod settled in quickly after the first inning, however, putting up zeroes in the second and third innings before an errant throw on a bunt attempt to third allowed Michael Rodriguez to score from first in the fourth.
Despite getting the loss, McLeod looked steady in key spots and will be a key contributor to the Vikings pitching rotation this season. The Lowndes starter finished the afternoon with a solid stat line: five innings pitched, four strikeouts, and three runs allowed (two earned). He threw 65 pitches, 44 of which went for strikes.
Lowndes had a tough time getting to Valverde, who had five strikeouts, as the Vikings mustered just five hits on the afternoon. Higginbotham did the majority of the damage for the Vikings, as he was 2-of-4 with two singles and a run scored.
For Florida Christian, Chinea and Jack Diaz had four of the team’s eight hits. After the first inning, the Patriots bats cooled down until the seventh, utilizing one of the Vikings’ three errors to plate a run and a pinch-hit RBI from Joanthony Paris to add further insurance.
For Lowndes, utilizing the experience gained from playing Ponte Vedra and Florida Christian will be key as the Vikings enter a key part of their schedule. Lowndes returns to action Tuesday when they travel to Adel to face the Cook Hornets.