Despite going 0-3 the first week of the season, Port St. Joe softball coach Lissa Walker remains optimistic for the team in the long run.
The Tiger Sharks opened the 2022 campaign on Monday, Feb. 21, at Liberty County, who bashed their way to a 15-5 win over the young St. Joe squad.
“They are a good team, and can swing the bats,” said Walker of the Bulldogs. “ The first two innings were rough, but after a pitching change we settled in and played well. Freshman Addie Silcox pitched well enough to keep us in the game, so that was positive going into a long season.”
The following night, the youthful Tiger Sharks hosted perennial power Wewahitchka, and although eighth grader Brooklyn Bishop and Silcox combined to allow zero earned runs, the Gators prevailed 10-0 behind the dominant pitching of senior Haley Guffey.
“I thought Brooklyn threw a heck of a game,” said Walker, “and (junior) Kali Austerman had a great game at short, but with a good pitcher on the mound we can’t spot a team like that with runs, and we did through a couple of mental errors.”
“Teams with good pitching only need a couple of runs to get a win,” continued Walker. “We definitely need to make adjustments at the plate the next time we face Wewa.”
The Gators started the game with unearned runs in the first and second innings. In the first, senior center fielder Kylie Parker stole second after lacing a single to right, went to third on an infield hit by Guffey, and then touched home due to an errant throw on a rundown attempt.
In the second, sophomore third baseman Ashley Thompson singled up the middle, then promptly stole both second and third before coming home on a third strike pitch that got away from the St. Joe catcher.
In the fourth, the Gators benefitted from two Shark errors and two questionable calls by the base umpire that went against St. Joe, allowing three Wewa runners to score even though they got only two infield hits in the inning.
More St. Joe miscues allowed two more runs in the fifth and three in the sixth, none earned but still on the scoreboard.
All the while, Guffey dominated on the mound, contributing to all 18 Tiger Shark outs with 17 Ks and an assist on a one-hopper back to the mound. She allowed only three hits, a single by Bishop in the fourth, a double by senior Erica Ramsey and a bunt single by Austerman, both in the sixth and final inning.
Parker and Thompson both had two hits for Wewa, and also scored two runs each. Junior right fielder Madison Forehand also touched home twice.
Another local opponent, Franklin County, came to town on Thursday, Feb. 24, and would board the bus with a 6-1 win under their hats. Earlier that evening, the St. Joe JV shut out Franklin County’s JV 7-0 behind Haley Green’s pitching.
Like his St. Joe counterpart, Seahawks coach Scott Collins also fields a very young varsity, having only one senior on the squad in center fielder Ariel Andrews. For the game, Andrews had a hit, two walks, two stolen bases, and scored twice.
On the night, Franklin County freshman pitcher Sarah Ham set the tone by striking out nine Sharks while allowing no free passes. Ham gave up only four St. Joe hits along with a single run in the third inning to claim the Seahawks win in their first game of the season.
Another freshman, third baseman Raegan Dempsey, led the Seahawk attack with three hits including two doubles, two RBIs, and one run scored.
Sixth grade second baseman Addison Mallon had a triple among her two hits, with an RBI and a run scored.
Franklin County scored single runs in the second, third, sixth and seventh innings, plus a pair of runs in the fifth inning as they racked up a total of nine hits.
“They are very athletic, and we will get better,” said Collins of his team, “St. Joe is much improved, and played us better than before. We’re happy to come out with the win.”
Center fielder Addy Creekmore collected two of the Tiger Shark hits, including a double, and drove in Silcox for the only St. Joe run of the game. Silcox and left fielder Maelynn Butler had the other two Shark hits.
“We missed some key times to put runs across the plate,” said Walker. “We missed a few key pitches and didn’t make adjustments at the plate.”
“We have some work to do, and things to figure out but we are on the right track,” she said. “We are young in some key positions, but we have great kids that will keep working to get better. The season is still young and we have a lot of ball to play. If we mature and keep grinding we will definitely be a much better team at tournament time.”
St. Joe’s next opportunities to mature would come on Monday, March 1, against Mosley High in Lynn Haven, followed by a home contest on Thursday, March 3, when Rutherford will come to town.