Despite a loss to Franklin County in last week’s district semifinal, the second-seeded Port St. Joe Sharks had a date Wednesday night in the regionals, facing the third-seeded Chipley Tigers in Washington County.
After sustaining two regular season losses to the Tiger Sharks, the Seahawks triumphed 9-1 May 2 at home, in a must-win game for keeping their tournament hopes alive.
The crowd was robust from both sides at the diamond at Franklin County High School, as the Seahawks jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Senior Dane Mallon got the first hit of the night, a single to right field, followed by a walk to junior Cody Abercrombie.
Senior Evan Stanley’s single to center brought home designated runner junior Brayden McCall, and then a fly ball by senior Chase Crum to center was dropped by the St. Joe fielder and two more runs scored.
The Seahawks added two more in the fourth, as eighth grader Sadiq Jones opened the rally with a single as part of his 3 for 4 night at the plate, and later scored along with junior Chase Millender, largely due to St. Joe miscues that were part of their five-error performance.
Four Seahawk runs in the sixth, due in part to a pair of bases-loaded walked-in runs, quenched any hope of a St. Joe comeback.
Mallon was unflappable on the mound, not allowing a Tiger Shark score until the bottom of the fourth, when a sharply hit one-out, full-count pitch to junior Fisher Vandertulip was grounded deep to the second baseman, enabling junior Wills Norton to score.
The Tiger Sharks had missed a golden opportunity in the bottom of the third to score when senior Jack Trochessett slammed a deep hit to the outfield, potentially for extra bases, but then collapsed at the plate. The Seahawk fielders threw the ball on to first for the out, while the batter was helped off the field and on to medical attention for what appeared to be a season-ending injury.
A single to center by junior Hunter Hicks followed, but the bases were clear, and Mallon’s strikeout of senior Jabara Pearson ended what might have been a promising inning.
Mallon struck out 10 Tiger Sharks, walked two, and allowed just one run on six hits. He closed out the game by striking out two of the three batters in the bottom of the seventh.
Port St. Joe starter Vandertulip pitched four-and-two thirds innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits, while striking out seven and walking two. Norton came in in relief, and allowed four earned runs on two hits, while striking out one and walking three. Junior Jentzen Odom pitched one-and-two-thirds innings, striking out two and walking two, while giving up a hit.
In all, the Tiger Sharks, 18-7 and sixth-ranked in the state, produced six hits, two by Norton and one each by Odom, Vandertulip, junior Hunter Hicks and freshman Corban Butts.