Thank goodness for a couple of warm-up games, because the regular season opens with a gauntlet for the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School baseball team.
The defending Class 1A state champions (nice ring, huh) will host a preseason round-robin Classic this Saturday at Centennial Field.
The Tiger Sharks will play Franklin County at 12 p.m. ET followed by Franklin County against North Bay Haven at 3 p.m. ET.
The day is completed with Port St. Joe versus North Bay Haven at 6 p.m. ET.
And, when the regular season gets underway on Tuesday in Blountstown, it really gets going.
That Blountstown game is followed by games against large-schools Bay, Arnold and Rutherford and rising district power Liberty County.
“That is how we wanted to do it,” said Port St. Joe coach Ashley Summerlin. “I scheduled all the big district games at the end of the season except Liberty County.
“It is going to be a tough way to open the season.”
Port St. Joe returns nearly the entire line-up that won the state title last year and added some new faces.
They have been on the practice field since the last days of January and ran the varsity’s winning streak over the alumni in the annual end-of-practice scrimmage to two with a 9-8 win last Saturday.
“We have the potential to be good,” said Coach Ashley Summerlin. “What’s so good about this season is we have so many kids back.
“They know what we expect and it is easier to keep rolling.”
The one area of question is on the mound, where the Tiger Sharks bring back more arms but lost a lot of experience with the graduation of the two pitchers who carried the load down the stretch last year.
“We are just going to have to be patient with our pitching,” Summerlin said. “It’s going to be a fun year.”