CRESTVIEW — Baker School’s baseball team played David against the Crestview High School Gray team Goliath in the Justin Richards Scholarship Tournament’s championship game on Saturday.
The Gators didn't have slingshots or stones, but they made use of their weapons in the way of baseballs and bats. The Baker players also showed a bit of courage and tenacity along the way.
After dropping their tournament opener to the Gray team 10-2 Thursday, the Gators won three straight games to earn a spot in the championship game against Crestview Gray.
Baker got the best of the rematch, taking a 7-6 win to claim the tournament title.
Alan Weidenhammer and Kyle Davis provided the pitching and their teammates supplied timely hitting and stingy defense to come away with the win.
Baker followed a time-proven recipe for success, Gator coach Scott Johnson said.
"I’ve been around long enough to know that the kids would have to execute, not make errors, throw strikes, and above all else, put the ball in play on the ground and compete," he said. "And our boys did that, pretty much. Game one, we struggled, throwing strikes a little bit, but from that point, we put it in play.
"The pitchers threw strikes and we played good defense. The older guys – the seniors now – did a great job. It was a great experience."
Weidenhammer and Davis provided the Gators leadership at the plate and on the mound.
Weidenhammer walked in the first inning and later scored on a Davis hit, giving the Gators an early 1-0 lead.
Hunter Willis scored for Crestview in the bottom of the first inning, tieing the game at 1-1.
Weidenhammer turned in the tournament’s defensive play in the second inning to shut down a potential Bulldog rally.
Devin Wimmer led off the Bulldog second with a base hit. Pierce Cadenhead tried to bunt, but popped the ball up between home plate and the pitcher's mound.
Weidenhammer made a diving catch to retire Cadenhead and, while still sitting on the ground, threw to first base to double up Wimmer.
A three-run Bulldog third seemed to put Crestview in control of the game.
Weidenhammer temporarily struggled with his control, hitting Dustin Kervin and Jordan Chamberlain with errant pitches.
Drew Graham singled and all three runners eventually scored.
Daviswalked and scored as Jacob Nixon was safe on an error in the top of the fourth inning. The Bulldogs answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Wimmer singled, leading off the inning, and Cadenhead reached on a walk. Wimmer scored on a Kervin hit and Cadenhead was sent home by a Bryce Larkins base hit.
With two outs in the inning and the two Bulldog runs in, Johnson replaced Weidenhammer on the mound with Davis. Davis shut the Bulldogs down the rest of the way as the Gators battled back.
Travis Farmer led off the Baker fifth with a single and moved to third as Weidenhammer doubled. Josh Long was safe on a fielder's choice as Farmer was thrown out at home.
Austin Hicks singled to score Weidenhammer. Davis walked and Mason Lowery singled home Hicks.
Hicks scored when Austin Davis grounded out for the second Gator out of the inning.
Jake Rainey and Weidenhammer scored for Baker in the sixth to give the Gators the win.
"You have to give those guys credit," Bulldog coach Tim Gillis said. "They wanted it a lot more than we did. They deserve it.
"They wanted it, they played hard and battled. I thought they were impressive. Anybody that was here could see that."
The Gators made their way to the championship game in impressive fashion.
After losing the tournament opener to Crestview Gray, the Gators on Thursday beat Crestview Red 7-3, giving the Red team their only loss of the tournament.
Friday belonged to Baker as the Gators pounded Northview 12-2 and made short work of Choctawhatchee 17-2. Both games were called in the fifth inning on the run rule.
Hicks and Rainey combined for the win against Northview. The trio of Weidenhammer, Bubba Ellis and Dylan Josey shut down the Indians.
The way Baker swung the bats against Northview and Choctaw pitching might have been the least of Johnson's worries.
The Gators fell behind the Chiefs 1-0 in the first inning. But the Northview lead didn't last long.
Baker sent 12 battters to the plate and scored eight runs in the second inning to take control of the game.
Things started innocently enough, with Kyle Davis drawing a walk and Lowery connecting for a base hit. With one out, Austin Davis was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Rainey walked to score Kyle Davis. Lowery scored on a Dakota Blackburn single, and Farmer cleared the bases with a double that increased the Gator lead to 5-1.
Farmer, Weidenhammer and Long also scored in the Gator second. Baker scored four unearned runs in the fourth inning in rolling to the win over the Chiefs.
Choctaw scored twice in the top of the first inning to take a brief lead against the Gators.
Baker responded with four runs in the home half of the inning taking a lead the Gators wouldn't relinquish.
Baker scored four runs in the second and third innings and five runs in the fourth as the Gators coasted to the win and secured a spot in the championship game.
"The thing about the summer is we are not necessarily playing against the other team," Johnson said. "We are playing against ourselves and trying to make ourselves better.
"We are playing at bats, innings, pitch to pitch and just trying to make ourselves better. In the game of baseball, giveaways are strikeouts and pop-ups. When we don't strike out and we hit the ball on the ground, we have a great chance (of winning)."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.