The Franklin County Seahawks have struggled to notch wins on the baseball diamond all season long, but Monday at Blountstown, they refused to give up without a titanic fight.
Seeded sixth in the District 4 Class 1A tournament at Blountstown, the Seahawks, who have managed just a handful of wins this season, squared off against sixth-seeded Liberty County, 15-10, and battled every inch of the way until falling 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh.
“We outplayed them,” said coach Mike Emerson. “It was a good game. You hate to lose this, but if you’re going to lose, you looked good. We finished the year on a good note, nothing bad about the game. If we played like that all year it would have been a different situation.”
The Seahawks scored in the top of the first, when junior Logan McLeod hit a leadoff triple, and then junior Alex Causey smacked a base hit to score McLeod.
On the mound for the Seahawks was junior James Newell, who went three innings and allowed four runs on three hits, and walked five.
Newell gave up a run in the first, and two in the second, but the Seahawks rebounded in the top of the third from the 3-1 deficit.
McLeod got on an error, and then senior Skyler Hutchinson walked, and Newell singled to load the bases, with no outs. Causey hit a RBI sacrifice to score McLeod, setting the stage for a single by sophomore Trenton Lee that plated the two men on base.
Knotted 4-4, Hutchinson took the mound in the fourth, and put up goose eggs for two straight innings, giving up just one hit in the fourth and in the fifth. He finished the game yielding four hits, striking out one and walking four.
The Bulldogs jumped ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, but in the top of the seventh McLeod was hit by a pitch, and then Hutchinson hit into a double play that McLeod managed to beat out. Newell grounded out to third but advanced McLeod to third and then with two outs, Causey hit the ball to third, the third baseman bobbled it, and McLeod scored to tie it at 5-5.
In the bottom of the seventh, Hutchinson had got the first two outs, but then gave up a single, the Bulldog runner stole second, and then came home following two passed balls.
Emerson praised the play of McLeod overall, after he assumed catcher duties late in the season. Senior Zach Howze was moved to second, Hutchinson to short and Lee to third base.
Howze went 2-for-3, with a pair of singles, Lee was 2-for-4 with two singles and Newell 1-for-3. the Seahawks posted eight hits and three errors, while the Bulldogs had seven hits and committed one error.
Emerson said the team’s only mental mistake came in the sixth, with men on second and third with one out, when junior Graham Kirvin hit a fly ball to center and the Bulldog outfielder was able to pick off a runner for a double play.
“There’s always a mental mistake somewhere,” said the coach. “It was little things this year. If we had kept down the errors we could beat anyone in our district. Sometimes it’s a lack of focus and when you don’t focus it kills you.”
The Seahawks finished the regular season at home April 9 against Blountstown, when they fell 10-5. Newell pitched-seven innings, gave up 10 runs on 13 hits and struck out three. Hutchinson was 2-for-3 with one walk.
At Altha April 18, the Seahawks closed out the regular season with an 11-2 loss.
Junior Bobbie Curry pitched two innings and then Hutchinson came in and pitched two innings, striking out four. Newell pitched 2 1/3 innings and senior Chase Golden 2/3rds of an inning.
“We learned a lot about who’s coming back for next year,” said Emerson. “Our juniors performed well at the end of the season. Hopefully we can carry that over the summer and they can dedicate themselves to get better. Juniors are going to be the core for next year. They need to work hard on the offseason, keep it up, and if we improve, by next year this time we’ll do better than this year.”