Tuesday night, Shark players, coaches and fans had a ceremony to honor and say goodbye to Albert Sheffer, whom both Gulf County School Superintendent Jim Norton and play-by-play announcer Bobby Nobles called “the number one Shark fan.”
Sheffer, a 2008 Port St. Joe graduate, has been the pre-game voice that introduced the Shark players for nearly 20 years in his signature and colorful manner, and this game would be his last as he and his mother are moving from Port St. Joe to be closer to family members.
“The title of number one Shark fan was earned,” said Nobles at the start of the pre-game ceremony in which Sheffer threw out the first pitch with the Shark team gathered around. “There’s not another more genuine person on this earth than Albert Sheffer,” said Nobles.
After being presented with a framed Shark jersey and a signed baseball, Sheffer returned to the booth for his introductions and a final “Let’s play ball!”
And play ball they did, as the Sharks got off to a 2-0 first inning lead, and added one more run in the second against the 12-9 Buccaneers of North Bay Haven, who had put together an eight-game win streak before the night.
Jabara Pearson took first base after being hit by a pitch, and Wills Norton arrived safely at first courtesy of a Buccaneer error. Max Godwin followed with a run-scoring single to drive in Pearson, and after a double play, Fisher Vandertulip’s infield single drove in Norton for the 2-0 lead.
In the second inning, Jack Trochessett hit a one-out single, went to second on Hunter Hicks’ single, and scored on Pearson’s single.
After issuing a lead-off walk, Vandertulip did not allow another baserunner until the fourth inning, which was highlighted by Jentzen Odom’s brilliant running catch of a foul ball with a Buc runner at third. The next batter flew out to snuff the potential rally and keep the visitors scoreless.
Odom’s catch “was a big out for us,” said Summerlin. “It was not an easy catch.”
In the Bay Haven fifth, two singles put a runner at third with one out, but consecutive fielder’s choices preserved the 3-0 lead.
The Sharks put the game away in the fifth inning, and nearly ended the contest as they scored six runs on seven hits to take a 9-0 lead.
Norton got things started with an infield hit, followed by singles by Godwin and Eli Harris, a Vandertulip two-run homer, singles by Baylor Partie and Odom, a walk to CJ Thompson, and a two-run double by Pearson.
The Bucs briefly came to life for two runs in the sixth, but the Sharks rallied for the final three runs to close out the contest in their half of the sixth.
With one out, Harris got his third hit of the game. Vandertulip walked, followed by Partie’s second hit in a row to load the bases.
After Harris came home on a wild pitch by the third Bay Haven pitcher of the game, Odom drove in Vandertulip with a single to right field. When the Buc catcher failed to secure the incoming throw, Partie sped home from third with the deciding run to end the game. Sharks 12, Bucs 2.
Harris, who batted in the cleanup spot after being on a noticeable hitting tear, had a double and two singles. Five other Sharks contributed two hits each toward the 15-hit total: Pearson, Odom, Partie, Vandertulip, and Godwin.
Vandertulip pitched a complete game five-hitter for the win, helping the Sharks improve their record to 18-6.
“We’re having better at bats and swinging at better pitches,” said Summerlin after the game. “Last year, we were about a .250 hitting team, and this year we’re about .310. Last year, we didn’t hit a home run, and this year (led by Pearson’s five) we’ve hit 11.”
“Our kids have grown up and they’ve really bought into the things we’re asking them to do,” he said.
Summerlin also noted the lineup changes he has been making, including inserting Harris in the fourth spot. On a recent doubles-tear, Harris is in a three-way tie with Pearson and Godwin for the team lead in two-baggers with seven each.
“He really competes with two strikes,” said Summerlin of Harris.
With a final contest on Friday, April 28, at Godby, the “next season” looms with district playoffs. “Everything starts over, and you’re 0-0 and not guaranteed anything,” he said.
“I’m glad we were able to get our seniors in the game today, so that those guys got another day to play at home,” he said. “We love this place, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be back (this season). We’re excited about where we are, but there’s a lot of work to do, and the job isn’t done.”
On this night, however, there was more than one reason to celebrate as the team gave Sheffer a rousing send-off with the decisive win.
“Albert has overcome so many of the physical limitations that he was dealt at birth,” said Norton. “This is an emotionally sad occasion, but one we want to make as celebratory as possible.”
“The last of his generation of Sheffers here,” Norton continued, “Albert leaves behind a lasting legacy of Shark athletic enthusiasts.”