Baseball, softball kick off season after pre-season prep
St. Joe baseball opens pre-season
Coach Ashley Summerlin’s Tiger Sharks took to the diamond last weekend with two pre-season games, winning 14-13 on a walk-off against Wakulla Christian on Friday, Feb. 18, and then taking it on the chin 8-2 against North Bay Haven the next day.
“We did some good things, and saw where we need to improve in other areas,” said Summerlin. “We don’t return a starter from last year. So we’ve really focused on that. We did more bullpens and (other work) with our pitchers in the summer and off-season than we’ve done since I’ve been here.
“Hopefully, that’s going to pay off,” said the St. Joe head coach. “The ability is there, (but) it’s the experience that they lack.”
Summerlin and pitching coach Travis Burge scheduled more summer league games than in the past, and players attended an Auburn summer camp.
Expecting ups-and-downs this season, Summerlin said “ultimately, they will get to where they want to be just by the experience they get.”
St. Joe’s main competition will be from Bozeman, Chipley, and Franklin County, who “will return a lot of people, so (the Seahawks) will be tough competition in our district.”
Summerlin and the Sharks received good news recently when senior outfielder and leadoff hitter Dakota Quinn was medically cleared to play, although “he has to build some strength up” before being 100 percent.
In addition to Quinn’s leadership, reliable bat, and steady outfield play, Summerlin expects the Sharks to have strong play in the infield. “That’s saying a lot because our guys are kind of inexperienced,” he said.
Summerlin said he expects positive contributions from Jabara Pearson, Caden Pruitt, Max Godwin, Donovan Cumbie, Jack Trochessette, and Fisher Vandertulip this season.
With basketball and soccer both ended, Summerlin has his full complement of players at every practice, adding Vandertulip, Grant Bartley, and Justice Peacock from soccer, and Godwin, Pearson, and Hunter Hicks from basketball.
The Sharks played the season opener Tuesday, Feb. 22 at Liberty County, where the Sharks fought hard but were ultimately defeated 13 to 6.
Their first home game is Friday, Feb, 25., when St. John Paul II comes to town. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Port St. Joe softball prepares for season
The last time that Port St. Joe had a winning softball season, senior Erica Ramsey was an eighth grader on that 15-8 team.
A starter every year since the seventh grade, Ramsey sees similarities between that 2018 team and this year’s offering.
“We have a lot of athletes like we did that year,” said the .390 career hitter who led the team with a .420 average and a 1.138 on-base plus slugging stat during her junior season. “We have some solid pitchers, and with our bats we’re going to have a chance to have a good, winning season this year.” Last year’s team finished with a 7-14 record.
Ramsey, who signed a scholarship letter in November with Chipola College, said “knowing I’m going to Chipola to play, this year (my goal) is just to have fun and be the best teammate that I can be” for the younger players.
For the time being, the versatile Ramsey is the only senior on the squad, because middle infielder Megan Saleh was disappointed to learn on Valentine’s Day that her physician would not clear her to play softball.
Saleh, goalkeeper for St. Joe’s soccer team, underwent knee surgery early last summer, and her doctor felt the rigors of softball might pose too much risk, ending her softball career prematurely..
Another senior who played last year, Mimi Larry, is a starter on the Tiger Shark basketball team, who play Wildwood Feb. 23 in the Class 1A Final Four semifinals.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout this year, having about 40 girls practicing, including middle school, junior varsity, and varsity players,” said first year coach Lissa Walker. “Similar to volleyball, we’ll have some growing pains, (and) things we have to learn and fight through. They have a lot to learn about themselves, (including) their confidence.
“We’ve added players from different areas,” she said, naming Addie Creekmore from Idaho, Bree Fleming from Franklin County, and Addie Silcox from Blountstown.
“I think we’re going to compete,” said Walker. “As far as wins and losses, they’re going to come, but I think every game (that) we should be able to compete.”
“Pitching is going to be young,” with eighth graders and a freshman, she said. “We’re still trying to pinpoint where the key people are going to be.”
Coming to Port St. Joe following a successful 26-year coaching career in the Birmingham, Alabama area, Walker brought a winning attitude to the program, and introduced something new to the girls’ practice routine – yoga.
Besides increasing one’s flexibility, yoga can help with balance, strength, focus, breathing, and mental toughness. “I used yoga at Vestavia (Hills HS) all the time,” said Walker.
Walker and assistant coach Eric Ramsey are working on the varsity roster, having just gotten some players from soccer and weightlifting. Chili Bailey and Aaron Brannan coach the middle school team.
This past weekend, the Sharks competed in the Wewa Pre-Season Classic, losing to Blountstown 3-1 on Thursday, Feb. 17, and then shutting out Vernon 5-0 the following night.
“We definitely have to be more aggressive at the plate, but it’s called pre-season for a reason,” said Walker, after the Blountstown loss.
The Sharks managed two hits against the Tigers, both in the fourth inning, to tie the score 1-1. After Ramsey’s single to right field, Kali Austermann followed with an infield hit. Ramsey took third on a bad throw, and then scored on a passed ball.
Walker, who listed 20 girls on the lineup card, emptied the bench in the fifth inning. Blountstown scored the final two runs of the game in the sixth.
The next night, Addy Silcox and Brooklyn Bishop combined for a no-hit shutout against Vernon. Ramsey stroked a two-run homer, and Maelynn Butler drove in two runs on a triple to lead the Sharks to the win.
The season kicked off Monday, Feb. 21, when the Sharks traveled to Bristol to take on the Liberty County Bulldogs, ultimately losing 15 to 5. The team played and were defeated by the Wewa Gators on Tuesday.
Wewa softball opens pre-season
The Lady Gators faced a pair of Bulldogs at their Pre-Season Classic last weekend, getting drubbed by Marianna 11-0 on Thursday before coming back on Saturday to knock off Freeport 5-3.
“We’re not used to losing like that,” said Wewa senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Katie Shealy, of the Marianna loss.
Saturday’s contest against the Freeport Bulldogs turned out more to the local fans’ liking.
Senior Haley Guffey scattered four hits and allowed four free passes while striking out 11 to gain the win. Freeport senior Sydni Free, a signee with Auburn University-Montgomery, took the loss.
Shealy started the Gator scoring when she led off the first inning with a loud double over the Bulldog center fielder’s head, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Kylie Parker’s grounder to second.
Right fielder Madison Forehand’s two-run blast off the scoreboard increased the Wewa lead to 3-0 in the second, but Bulldog shortstop Isabella Holden narrowed the gap to 3-1 in the third with a ringing blast to left center field.
The Gators got that run back when Parker reached on an error and worked her way to third before Guffey sent her home with a sharp single to right field.
Each team would cross the plate one more time, with Guffey earning her third hit of the game with a loud home run in the fifth to give the Gators a 5-2 lead.
When Freeport scored its final run in the seventh inning, it coincided with perhaps the defensive gem of the game.
With one out, Bulldog second baseman Alexis Newsome walked and promptly stole second base. Lemay Sullivan followed with a blast that hit the base of the fence in right center, which Parker picked up and unleashed a frozen rope to a waiting Shealy, who applied the tag on an astonished Sullivan as she slid into second.
The next batter flew out to Forehand to end the game
The Gators beat Port St. Joe on Tuesday, Feb. 22 and play at Wakulla tomorrow.