The Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School baseball team continued to absorb lessons the past week with the district playoffs looming in just under two weeks.
Lesson No. 1: When they are playing at a high level, the Tiger Sharks (15-7) can play with anybody. When they do not, the Tiger Sharks can lose to anybody.
That was demonstrated during a 1-2 week which began with a home loss to Bozeman and ended Tuesday night with a win over Franklin County.
The 2-0 loss to state top-ranked Bozeman likely relegated Port St. Joe to the second or third seed in District 4-1A, though a win Friday at Bozeman could create several potential scenarios.
“We were in control of our destiny, but the loss to Bozeman means we are likely to need help,” said Port St. Joe coach Ashley Summerlin, noting that Bozeman remained unbeaten in district play while the Tiger Sharks are now two games back.
“That loss was a learning experience. We are right there. We can play with anybody in Class 1A. We are still a top 10 team.”
The Tiger Sharks managed just two hits against Bozeman ace Chase Parker while Josh Butts went the distance for Port St. Joe, allowing just four hits.
“We just did not play real well,” Summerlin said. “Josh pitched a good game. He pitched the way he ought to be pitching, keeping hitters off balance, changing speeds.”
The ensuing game at Rutherford, a 9-8 loss, Summerlin attributed to “Monday blues.”
The Rams put up seven runs in the third inning to take a huge lead but the Tiger Sharks chipped away and had a chance to win in the seventh inning.
Caden Turrell had a pair of hits including a home run and Jaden Grantland added a pair of triples for Port St. Joe.
“It was too little, too late,” Summerlin said. “We are steady on offense and finding ways to score, but we have got to find a way not to strike out so much.
“That is our Achilles’ heel. We get a hit or two and then the next two batters strike out.”
A bright spot was the starting pitcher, Kevin Lacivita, making his first varsity start.
And though he was taken out in the third, Summerlin said Lacivita, one of three sophomores which have deepened the pitching staff, “competed and did things well. It just showed he has a lot to learn just like all our kids have a lot to learn.”
Tuesday, the Tiger Sharks hosted Franklin County, again falling behind early before pulling out a 10-6 victory.
“You just want them to understand the urgency,” Summerlin said. “We are right there with everybody.”
Port St. Joe is at Bozeman Friday, at North Bay Haven Tuesday and home Wednesday against Arnold to finish the season.
“That will give us a chance to line up our pitching and work on bringing some areas up,” Summerlin said. “We’ve got two weeks or so before the district tournament.
“Our job right now is we are preparing for that.”
The regular season, Summerlin said, his players seem ready to see end. The past six months, from Hurricane Michael to a season defending a state title can take its toll.
“They are a little tired, I think,” Summerlin said. “But as I have told them, their parents have gone through the same things and you just can’t take days off.
“You just have to keep working and competing.”
The goal is more than wins and losses, although state titles can always be the result.
“We are better off than we were last year,” Summerlin said. “I am excited. I like our chances. We’ve been there and we get to build off that experience.
“They have played with expectations all year, they hear it, and that can take a toll. But rather than winning and losing the goal is for them to be better citizens or you haven’t really done your job.”