Although the school year ended nearly two months ago, the Port St. Joe High School cafeteria buzzed with activity on Tuesday night, July 12, as the baseball team met for their awards banquet.
Despite starting the 2022 season 0-6, Coach Ashley Summerlin said that “this was one of the most positive groups of kids that I’ve ever been around.”
Instead of blaming each other and pointing fingers, “they were there for one another, (and) had each other’s backs,” said Summerlin.
“Adversity is going to happen, (but) it’s the belief in yourself and your willingness to block all that noise and to take a leap of faith that will make you successful in life.”
Summerlin noted the lack of pitching experience at the start of the season, with returning players having only five innings of varsity work, and JV pitchers having zero innings of mound experience.
“We had seven new starters,” said Summerlin of his varsity team. “We won 11 of our last 14 games, finishing 13-12 overall.”
Those 11 wins included two wins over Franklin County and a shocking 3-2 win over an over-confident and number-one ranked Bozeman for the district 1A-4 title on May 5.
“It’s not what you can accomplish, it’s what you can become,” Summerlin said to his players. “Things like hard work, determination, dealing with failures, (and) mental toughness will allow a person to become whatever you want to be.” As coaches, “We want our players to make good husbands and to be good fathers. We focus on the kid first and the player second. If we can accomplish those things, then the winning takes care of itself.”
“We don’t talk about (winning). I never bring the word up. It’s about the dedication that it takes to be successful, and if we can do that they’ll be successful in life, and we’ve done our job as coaches,” said Summerlin.
Turning to the four seniors on the team, Summerlin thanked them for the 45 wins during their four years, including a district championship, a district runner-up finish, two state regional appearances, and four top-25 1A rankings.
“I want to thank you for your leadership and the example that you showed to your teammates. I hope that you have learned something besides baseball from going through our program.”
“Tonight, you move forward and go out in this world,” said Summerlin. “In this country, we have opportunity, and you can be successful if you have the will.”
After these remarks, Summerlin and assistant coach Travis Burge gave certificates to the JV players, who are listed in alphabetical order below.
Chris Acree, Tucker Ashcraft, Grant Bartley, Corbin Butts, Marcus Clayton, Brayden Dailey, Eli Godwin, Eli Harris, Peyton Knox, Jacob Medina, Brady Olsen, Baylor Partie and Rhett Shaw.
Before recognizing the varsity players by class, Summerlin acknowledged his assistant coaches and two other individuals who played important roles for the team.
In addition to Burge, who serves as the pitching coach, Tracy Browning and Alex Strickland provided invaluable coaching assistance to Summerlin, who said “I appreciate every one of y’all.”
Albert Scheffer, who entertained players and fans alike with his pre-game introductions of players, and team manager Ben Wilker, received recognition and certificates.
Varsity players were then introduced by class, beginning with the four seniors: Carson Davis, Caden Pruitt, Cameron Pruitt, and Dakota Quinn. Quinn could not attend because he has reported for summer workouts at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas, where he will be playing
football on scholarship.
Juniors are Donovan Cumbie, Jordan Olson, Jabara Pearson, C.J. Thompson, and Jack Trochessett.
Sophomores, the largest class represented on the varsity with seven players, include C.J. Conway, Max Godwin, Owen Grantland, Hunter Hicks, Jentzen Odom, Cullen Partie, and Fisher Vandertulip.
Six varsity players earned awards for their classroom accomplishments, being selected to the FHSAA
All-Academic Team. They are Conway, Cumbie, Hicks, Partie, Pearson, and Trochessett.
Cumbie and Pearson also received the honor of being chosen to the 1A All-State Team.
After these recognitions, Summerlin and Burge took turns handing out the following individual awards.
● Offensive Player of the Year: Jabara Pearson
● Defensive Player of the Year: Hunter Hicks
● Pitcher of the Year: Donovan Cumbie
● Hoss Wilder Hustle Award: Carson Davis
● Scholar Athlete of the Year: Cullen Partie
● Coaches Award: Cameron Pruitt
● Most Improved Player: Caden Pruitt
● “WIN” (Whatever is necessary) Award: Jack Trochessett
● Most Valuable Player: Jentzen Odom
Summerlin closed by expressing his appreciation for the school district, the team’s parents, and coaches wives, especially his own spouse, Lindsay, whom he described as “team mom, team cheerleader, and a single parent for five months of the year” during the season.
“I got great support from my school and my district administration. Anytime that I need anything, anytime I have questions, they’re always there for us, giving us whatever we need.”
“It’s not easy being a baseball parent. Baseball bats aren’t cheap, baseballs aren’t cheap. If you’re going to be good, you have to have money. Fundraising, extra help, pre-game meals, and other support” are vital, said Summerlin, and “you make my job a whole lot easier.”
“I know it takes a village to raise kids,” said Summerlin, and “I want to thank all of you.”