Bozeman left Centennial Field after Tuesday night’s 16-1 thrashing of Port St. Joe the irrefutable winner, advancing to the region finals on Friday, May 13.
After the Tiger Sharks’ shocked the Bucks 3-2 in front of their home fans last Thursday night, Bozeman got off to a quick start, scoring two runs in the first, another in the second, and five in the third.
The Bucks rocked starting pitcher Donovan Cumbie for nine hits in the first three innings, including two doubles and a two-run homer by first baseman Larry Street.
Fisher Vandertulip started the fourth inning for St. Joe, and limited the Bucks to a single run as they took a 9-0 lead.
With the teams changing positions in the fourth, Bozeman’s first base coach picked up the bat used by the last batter of the inning, pointed it at the Port St. Joe dugout in a taunting manner and said what witnesses described as a derogatory remark.
Before resuming action, the home plate umpire met with Bozeman head coach Jeff Patton and St. Joe assistant coach Tracy Browning and warned that no further unsportsmanlike behavior would be tolerated, and that the first base coach was to have no more interaction with the Tiger Sharks.
The Sharks scored their only run of the game that inning. Max Godwin occupied second base after hitting into a fielder’s choice and a steal. Caden Pruitt followed with his second hit of the game to drive in Godwin to make the score 9-1.
Jabara Pearson and Cumbie had the only other Shark hits during the game.
Held to no runs in the fifth, the Bucks batted around in the sixth and scored seven more runs. With the score 16-1 and the bases loaded, Hunter Hicks came on to pitch and record the final out.
In their final at bat in the sixth, St. Joe had Cameron Pruitt and Cumbie at second and third, respectively, with no outs, but Bozeman ended the game with two strikeouts and a ground ball out.
With the win, Bozeman improved to 23-4, with the 17-10 Chipley Tigers as their final obstacle to making the 1A finals. Chipley defeated Franklin County 10-3 on Tuesday.
The young Tiger Sharks ended the season at 13-12 after starting the year 0-6.
But St. Joe coach Ashley Summerlin saw a silver lining, because “I feel like we’re definitely ahead of schedule. We’ve got seven (starters) returning, and even though we started 0-6 with a really hard schedule, we’re 15th in the state (and) we got a district championship.
“We got to host a playoff game, and that’s just a testament to the kids and my staff and how we work,” said Summerlin.
“As a coach, you want to be able to know that you’re better at the end of the year than you were at the start. And there’s no doubt that we’re a better team now than we were when we started in February. The kids fought and came together and got better,” he said. “I’m proud of them. I told them (after the game) we have had state championships, and we have had district championships, (and) we’re about building men.”
“If we can teach (players) to be on time, and do things the right way and be able to work hard to get better, then they will be successful in life. If we can do that, then we’ve done our job,” he said.