NICEVILLE — Powered by a three-run fourth inning the Niceville High School baseball team beat Crestview 3-0 Thursday in the championship game of the District 1-7A tournament.
Crestview opens state tournament play Wednesday on the road in Tallahassee against District 2-7A champion Chiles in the region quarterfinals. Niceville hosts Lincoln on Wednesday in the region quarterfinals.
Bulldog Coach Tim Gillis was hoping for the win and the opportunity to open the playoffs at home, but the veteran coach knows anything can happen in the post season.
“The bottom line is we are in the playoffs,” he said. “Last year we won the district championship and Mosley had to go on the road (in the playoffs). And Mosley ended up playing for the state championship.
“It can happen.”
Through three innings Niceville pitcher Will West and Crestview’s Corey Armstrong matched each other pitch for pitch.
Things changed in the bottom of the fourth when the Eagles sent nine batters to the plate and scored the only runs of the game.
Andrew Engle was safe on an error to lead off the inning. Drew Frederic followed with a single. A Cody Moore double to left field scored Engle and Frederic.
Niceville continued the fourth inning onslaught with a single off the bat of Tyler Head that moved Moore to third. Moore scored on the back end of a double steal as Head was thrown out at second for the first out of the inning.
Zack Shields and John Secord singled and it looked as if the Eagles would break the game wide open.
Armstrong got Brady Smith to pop out to second before Spencer Rackley singled to load the bases.
The inning ended with Zander Huff ground out to Armstrong.
“They got six hits in the inning and we were fortunate they only got three (runs) out of that,” Gillis said. “But give them credit they did a good job. I thought we hung in there and battled.
“Corey did a great job of getting out of trouble and giving us a chance to be in the game still.”
Down by only three runs the Bulldogs were still very much in the game, but Crestview batters were unable to get to West.
West worked into the sixth inning before giving way on the mound to Drew Dungan with one out and Hunter Sullivan and Matt Gillis on base.
Armstrong grounded out to short to move Sullivan to third base and Gillis to second base. The inning ended with Sullivan and Gillis in scoring position when Austin Armstrong was called out on strikes.
Colter Hancock led off the Bulldog seventh, but was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Niceville finished the game with seven hits.
The Bulldogs had four hits. Sullivan had two hits, Hancock a hit and Matt French had a hit.
“We hung in there and battled,” Tim Gillis said. “It was a good high school baseball game. They got it done and we didn’t.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.