NICEVILLE — Crestview High School’s baseball team stood tall Tuesday in the District 1-7A tournament semifinal game against Tate.
Matt Gillis threw a one-hitter and Bulldog batters connected for 12 hits and three home runs as Crestview cruised to a 10-1 over the Aggies to advance to the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.
The Bulldogs (14-12) will play Niceville for the district championship at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“The kids have been working hard all year and they are resilient and they keep battling,” Bulldog Coach Tim Gillis said. “I’m just so proud of them. What a big win for us.
“This is the game we shoot for 365 days a year because it’s the one that gets you to the playoffs and these kids know how to respond to this situation. I’m excited for these kids. They’ve battled all year and sometimes it hasn’t been great, but they’ve always tried.”
Matt Gillis, Tim’s son, was sharp from the outside retiring the Aggies in order in the first inning. It was a theme that continued throughout the game as he tossed the gem striking out three Tate batters on the way to his seventh win of the year.
“We had big intentions on winning this game,” Matt Gillis said. “It was do or die. This team beat us twice so we had a little chip on our shoulder so we came out with some fire.
“My fastball had good movement on it and I was able to get them with my curveball sometimes in key pitches to get people. But it was my defense behind me that was working best for me.”
The Bulldogs broke the game open in the top of the third with seven runs on six hits. The big blows of the inning were a two-run homer by Hunter Sullivan and a three-run blast by Matt French.
Pierce Cadenhead was hit by a Mason Fryman pitch to lead off the inning. Sullivan was next and drove a two-strike pitch over the wall in left field to give the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish.
Back-to-back doubles by Gillis and Corey Armstrong scored Gillis. Colter Hancock singled moving Armstrong to third. Hunter Willis singled Armstrong home with one out.
French was next and took Fryman deep with a blast over the fence center to extend the lead to 7-0. French’s homer ended Fryman’s outing on the mound.
Tate scored its only run in the fourth inning. Brett Blackwelder led off the frame with a double and later scored on an infield out.
Crestview padded an already comfortable lead in the sixth when Armstrong homered with Gillis, who had walked, on base.
The Bulldogs scored their final run in the seventh as Cadenhead walked, moved to third on a Sullivan double and scored as Gillis grounded out.
Armstrong led the Bulldog attack with a pair of doubles, a two-run homer and three runs batted in. Hancock had three hits and Sullivan had two hits with a two-run homer and a double.
Armstrong was glad to see the Bulldog offense get untracked and to keep pressuring the Aggies the entire game.
“It feels great,” he said. It was much needed. I’ve learned to never give up on a game because you never know what you can do in any inning."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.