Jacksonville pros in playoffs

Spinnaker

The Jacksonville Jaguars might have to claw their way to success, as the Jacksonville Axemen professional rugby team and the Jacksonville Suns minor league baseball team are on their heels for the city’s spot-light in sports

Numerous teams at UNF have had successful matches at Hodges Stadium, but not many have accomplished what the Jacksonville Axemen have over the past few years. The only nick in the Axemen’s 2009 season was their loss to the New York Knights Aug. 29 in the 2009 Championship Final XII 32-12, in New York, N.Y.

The Axemen rarely found themselves behind their opponent this year as they fought their way to the finals and accomplished an undefeated regular season, but going head to head with the Knights was a challenge in itself.

Despite pounding Boston 46-16 in the first week of the season, Axemen player Daryl “Spinner” Howland said his team didn’t take anything for granted during the season.

The Axemen were one victory away from their first national title in the three years they have played in the American National Rugby league since the team’s formation in 2006.

Howland told the Florida Times-Union last week that the team’s success has generated immense excitement from the Axemen fan base.

The Axemen also became a part of history as they played in the Play it Again Sports “Half and Half” Challenge at UNF Aug. 1 as an American football team played a rugby league team for the first time in the history of both sports.

The Axemen have multiple players from UNF on their roster including Apple-Joe Pope in his fourth season with the team, John Turlington and Nicolas Shea in their second seasons.

Another Jacksonville team that has found recent success is the Suns, who will now make their first appearance in the 2009 playoffs as a Florida Marlins affiliate Sept. 10 through Sept. 12 on the road against the Birmingham Barons in game one of their best of five series.

Right hand pitcher Cristhian Martinez, who has developed into one of the leagues leaders in strikeouts, topped at 62 as Mike Stanton leads in homeruns, with 14. The Suns clinched their first-half season title in three years after a 7-1 win over the Huntsville Stars Sept. 6.

“It feels great. I’m really proud of the way the guys have played in this series,” Suns manager Brandon Hyde told the Times-Union this week by phone amid the celebration in the Suns’ locker room in Huntsville, Ala.

To add to the Sun’s accomplishments, closer Matt Peterson was recently named to the Southern League Postseason All-Star Team, according to the Southern league. With 49 strikeouts in 53 innings, this second round draft pick has proven himself on the field.