By Matt Stewart

VALDOSTA -- Florida prep baseball won the border battle on Day 1 of the Georgia-Florida Challenge, taking two of three games at Lowndes High's Noel George Field.

Florida Christian, the top ranked team and defending state champ in Class AA in Florida, took the rubber game 5-1 over Lowndes High, while Sarasota defeated McEachern 4-1 in the opener Friday. Lee County was the only team from Georgia to pull out a win, defeating Apopka 3-0.

Lowndes (6-2) was stifled by Patriots' starting pitcher Mitch Walker, who went the distance, holding the Vikings to just four hits and one run.

"He threw a nice changeup that kept us off balance," Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. "You're not always going to hit the baseball, but if we had played good defense we would have gone into the last inning with a chance to win the baseball game."

Lowndes starter John Michael Redding held Florida Christian at bay until the third inning when the Patriots put runners on second and third with one out. Chris Leon then hit his second double of the night, scoring J.C. Perez and Kevin Villa for a 2-0 lead.

Redding left after going four innings, allowing seven hits and two runs while striking out four.

"He didn't throw bad," Redshaw said of Redding. "I think he threw 80 pitches in four innings and he's been that way in all three of his starts."

In all, Florida Christian, a AA school out of Miami that will move up to class AAA next season, pounded out 12 hits.

Jake Summers entered in relief and Florida Christian greeted him rudely, scoring in the fifth on Leon's third hit of the night, an infield single that drove in Mike Bravo for a 4-0 Patriots' lead.

Florida Christian added to that lead when Stephen Rodriguez reached on a throwing error, allowing Arturo Alonso and Joaquin Valdes to score, giving the Patriots a commanding 5-0 lead behind the pitching of Walker.

"We had a couple of innings where we gave them extra outs and they did what good teams do, they took advantage of it," Redshaw said.

Lowndes threatened to dent Walker's armor in the fifth, putting runners on second and third with no out, but Walker settled and forced three consecutive groundouts to hold the Vikings scoreless.

Lowndes scratched the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth when John Simpson, hitting for the first time, hit a solo homer that soared over the fence in left center, cutting the Patriots lead to 5-1. Simpson, Corey Nichols and Ryan Carpenter (2-for-3) had the Vikings' only hits.

Lowndes hosts two games today in the Georgia-Florida Challenge, taking on Apopka at 12:30 p.m. and Sarasota at 5:30 p.m.

McEachern and Florida Christian (10 a.m.) and Lee County and Florida Christian (3 p.m.) also play at Lowndes High today on the final day of the Georgia-Florida Challenge. Lee County-Sarasota (11 a.m.) and McEachern-Apopka (3:45 p.m.) will be played at Valwood School.

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