Play Bozeman at home Tuesday
One more step, though a familiar one, remains between the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School baseball team and the state Class 1A Final Four.
The Tiger Sharks (15-12) handled visiting Freeport 7-2 in a Region 1-1A semifinal Thursday, advancing to host No. 1 Bozeman 7 p.m. ET Tuesday at Centennial Field.
As Port St. Joe and Bozeman fans know well, the last time those District 4-1A rivals played, in last week’s district title game, the Tiger Sharks snapped Bozeman’s 19-game winning streak with a 12-2 victory.
“Bozeman deserves their No. 1 ranking and Coach (Jeff) Patton does a great job,” said Port St. Joe coach Ashley Summerlin. “It is nice the two district heavyweights will play for the region title.
“Give the schedule we played this year and then what we have been doing at the end here, the kids are flying high. They deserve to be. They have figured it out. They grind and do the things they need to do to win.”
Elijah Hester started on the mound for Port St. Joe, tossing a gem, allowing one hit over 6 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out four; both Freeport runs were unearned.
Hester carried his no-hitter into the sixth inning.
Chris Stockton came on to get the final two outs.
“It shows you don’t have to throw hard to win,” Summerlin said. “Elijah and Chris, they keep hitters off-balance, they mix speeds and hit their spots.
“They are doing a real good job for us.”
Both will be available Tuesday.
The big inning was the Port St. Joe half of the third.
John Gee walked, Cameron Harmon and Phillip Griffin followed with bunt singles to load the bases.
Kaden Terrell turned on a pitch and blasted a grand-slam home run down the right-field line to make it 4-0.
Josh Butts hit Port St. Joe’s first home run of the season in the district championship game against Bozeman.
“We don’t hit a home run all year and all of sudden we hit one in two games in a row,” Summerlin said. “And if you hit one out on this field, you know you have put the barrel on the ball.”
The Tiger Sharks scuffled a bit in the field in the top of the fourth as Freeport plated two runs.
But in the bottom half of the frame, Jaden Grantland doubled and Brandon Brant singled in a run as a response.
Caleb Butts had a run-scoring single and Bryce Register a run-scoring double as Port St. Joe stretched the lead.
Summerlin was particularly appreciative of the home turnout.
“They were setting out chairs in the morning,” Summerlin said. “It was great. I have played in elite eights and playoffs and all that, but I have never seen anything like that for a high school baseball game.
“The kids deserved to have that. It was special.”