The future of the Franklin County Seahawk baseball program looks bright, after the middle school team finished its season at 10-2, and a runner-up trophy in the post-season tourney earlier this month.
After defeating Wewahitchka, Port St. Joe, Hosford and Tolar each twice during the regular season, and splitting their outings against Blountstown, the young Seahawks downed Wewa for a third time in the tourney the first weekend of March here in Franklin, and then lost to Hosford in the championship game.
“The 2020 Franklin County middle school baseball team might have only won a second place trophy, but they are champions in my eyes,” said Coach Dakota Tillis. “With the right support, the sky's the limit for these young Seahawks.”
Franklin County won the tourney opener 8-7 against Wewa, on a walk-off base hit by eighth grader Brayden McCall.
“Wewa came ready to play and it came down right ‘till the end,” said Tillis. “Their coaches had them ready to play, but our guys kept battling and were able to get the win at home to move to the championship.”
Eighth grader Will Luberto went 2 for 4 with a double, eighth grader Reese Juno went 1 for 1 with a double and two walks, eighth grader Jentzen Odom went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBI, and McCall went 2 for 2 with a double and a pair of runs batted in.
Eighth grader Chase Millender went 1 for 3 with a RBI, ABC eighth grader Logan Bentley went 1 for 3, and eighth grader Alex Sterling went 1 for 3 with a RBI,
McCall got the start on the mound and completed the first four innings, giving way to Odom in the fifth inning to close it out for the save. McCall collected four strikeouts and Odom hurled one.
“Both pitchers battled like I knew they would and threw a pretty solid game,” said Tillis, busy these days welcoming a 7-week-old infant boy into the family.
In the championship game against Hosford, the lead went back and forth early, and going into the third inning, the Seahawks led 4-3.
“Their sticks got hot and they started hitting the ball into the gaps and we couldn't ever quite catch up,” said Tillis.
Franklin County sustained a heartbreaking 10-6 loss.
“After we shook hands after the championship game, I walked back over to my team and most of them were already crying,” said Tillis. “They weren't complaining about the umpires or making excuses, they were upset the game was over and they had just lost to a team they had already beaten twice.
“They were mad they couldn't keep competing,” said the coach. “That, in my opinion, is a champion mindset and I couldn't be prouder of my boys for buying into the program.”
Luberto went 1 for 1 with a pair of RBI and two walks, eighth grader Cody Abercrombie went 1 for 1 with two walks, Bentley went 1 for 3 with an RBI, and Odom went 1 for 3.
Sterling got the start on the mound and struck out two and walked one in three innings. Proctor entered the game in the fourth, and gave up a run, and Odom pitched the fifth inning, striking out two.
“At the beginning of the year I wasn't sure how we were going to be this year. I knew we had lost a lot of size and speed from last year, but knew we brought back the core seven or eight guys and that it was a great group of young men,” said Tillis. “So I knew that if the boys bought in, that we could build something special here at Franklin County.
“That's exactly what they did. At the beginning of camp before the season, I gave the boys a word that we were going to embody as a team. The word I chose was ‘relentless,’” said the coach. “I constantly echoed the definition of relentless to the team and showed them what it looked like. The team bought in, put in the constant hard work, and took coaching.”
Rounding out the lineup this season are eighth graders Will Chipman, Will Chastain and CJ Conway, seventh grader Prince Williams and sixth grader Colby Blackburn.