Local high school baseball teams had a busy spring.
Crestview High School’s performance couldn’t have been much better as the Bulldogs won the District 2-6A champion; Baker School improved throughout the season under first-year coach Scott Johnson; and Laurel Hill School faced a rebuilding year.
For the second time in three years, the Bulldogs lifted a district championship trophy.
At times, Crestview was inconsistent during the District 2-6A regular season. The Bulldogs swept rival Niceville, but were swept by Mosley. Crestview split the regular season series with Choctawhatchee and Fort Walton Beach winning at home and losing on the road.
Crestview finished the district play’s regular season portion 4-4 with a loss to Fort Walton Beach on March 15. The Bulldogs were 8-4 overall at the time and wouldn't lose again for another month when they fell to Navarre.
The 10-game winning streak was capped by a Roman Donofro no-hitter against Marianna as the Bulldog celebrated Senior Night on April 9.
Loss to the Raiders was a temporary setback as Crestview rebounded with a win over Pace in the final warm-up game before the district tournament.
Donofro turned in another strong pitching performance for the Bulldogs as they opened the tournament with a 6-0 win over Niceville. Tate Sweatt provided the power with a couple of two-run doubles.
Crestview kept things rolling as Davis Champion and Dakota Dean led the way in the district championship 3-2 win over Mosley. Justin Rebholz turned in the play of the game with a diving catch in right field that probably saved a couple of runs.
Donofro was up to his old tricks as Crestview beat Tate 1-0 in the playoffs’ opening round. The magical season ended May 7 when Mosley beat the Bulldogs 3-0.
Crestview finished the season with a 22-6 record and on any given night another player took center stage.
First baseman Seth Thomason was a consistent force from his cleanup spot in the lineup. Tyler Henderson, a four-year starter, patrolled center field like a cop in a speed trap trying to make his ticket quota. Not many things got past the fleet-footed senior.
Henderson also was a force at the plate, hitting right at .400 for the season. The Crestview outfield of Sweatt in left, Henderson in center and Rebholz in right is one of the best this area has seen in recent years.
Sweatt also came up big at the plate as a senior, connecting on 11 doubles.
The Bulldog infield of Thomason at first base, Corey Armstrong at second, Dean at shortstop and Justin Abdo at third base was rock solid as well.
Dean, who has signed a baseball scholarship with Louisiana State, batted in the leadoff spot most of the season. Armstrong, a freshman, was steady in the field, at the plate and, when called upon, on the mound.
Austin Armstrong, a junior, was a steady presence behind the plate for the Bulldogs. His strong arm kept base runners honest and his timely hitting was apparent time and time again.
Dean, Champion, Donofro and Thomason have all signed baseball scholarships. Champion and Donofro will play for Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton, Ala. Thomason is heading to Alabama Southern Community College.
Hendersonsigned a Florida Atlantic University football scholarship, where he expects to also play baseball. Likewise, Rebholz signed a United States Coast Guard Academy football scholarship, and could play baseball there.
Sweatt also hopes to sign with someone in the near future.
Johnson found himself in a different environment after winning Big School Coach of the Year honors at Choctaw. Class 1A baseball is often as different from 6A ball as night is to day.
Johnson started late last summer in teaching the Gators his way of playing the game.
Baker struggled at times, but at other times things seemed to be come together nicely. The Gators picked up their biggest win of the season on March 21 when they upset Fort Walton Beach 4-3.
Baker's final win of the season came in the District 2-1A tournament opener as the Gators beat Chipley 7-3.
The Gators lost to Holmes County in the tournament’s second round and finished the year with a 10-17 record.
Garrett Sanders, Adam Crowson, Logan Nixon and Taylor Carlisle provided the team’s senior leadership.
Alan Weidenhammer emerged as the pitching staff’s ace and a solid third baseman in his first season at Baker.
The Hoboes were looking to rebuild after losing several key players to graduation in 2012.
Laurel Hill coach Ronnie Smith did his best to shuffle the deck following the loss of Tyler Zessin, Kyle Slingerland and Travon Calloway, but often he had more questions than answers.
Boomer Simmons and Tyler Grezlik, along with Max Smith, handled a large part of the pitching responsibilities. All three were valuable players at other positions, but the Hoboes came up short, falling in the District 1-1A tournament’s first round.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.