CRESTVIEW — The 2015 season was already on Crestview High School baseball Coach Tim Gillis' mind moments after Niceville beat Crestview Red 6-1 Saturday, taking the 19th annual Justin Richards Scholarship Tournament's championship.
Earlier in the day, Northview beat Crestview Red 8-4 and Crestview Gray beat Freeport 8-0.
“There are all kinds of things we can work on, but there are some guys that stood out to me,” Gillis said. “Like I told them, ‘I’m looking for next year. Everything we are doing now is preparing for next season.’
“There are some guys that stood out that are going to find a way into the lineup. They are winners. They are the type of guys that can win championships, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Throughout the three-day tournament, the Bulldogs played at a somewhat competitive disadvantage. Gillis, as he has done in the past, split the team into two squads. But in doing so, he was able to see more players in game situations.
“We have a long way to go and obviously there are some opportunities for a lot of people,” he said. “I just want to keep getting better on a daily basis. That’s what life is all about and, for us as a baseball program, that’s what we are about too.”
Niceville 6, Red 1
A pair of second-inning runs was all the Eagles needed for the win, but it didn’t hurt when Niceville added three more runs in the fourth and an insurance run in the seventh.
Back-to-back doubles by Tanner Buhorp and Jacob Jenkins off Crestview pitcher Nate Gerard to open the second put Niceville in front to stay. Buhorp hit a liner to the gap and left center field and scored as Jenkins found the same gap.
Jenkins later scored on an Andy Kelleher hit.
The only Bulldog run came in the fourth inning.
Colter Hancock drew a two-out walk. Three consecutive singles by Gerard, Travis Wiljakainen and Devin Wimmer followed. Wimmer’s hit scored Hancock.
Gray 8, Freeport 0
Crestview Gray, powered by a seven-run fourth inning, rolled past Freeport in a game that was called by the run rule after five innings.
Bryant Berry scored the game’s first run in the first inning. Berry reached on an error, stole second and third and later scored on a Dayne Justice sacrifice fly.
The way Ryan Weekley was pitching it looked as if the run would be enough.
Weekley shut Freeport down, allowing just two hits and a walk in picking up the win.
The Crestview offense finally got untracked in the fourth as the Bulldogs sent 11 batters to the plate and banged out four hits to go along with four Freeport errors and a walk.
Corey Armstrong started things off with a double and later scored on a wild pitch.
Zach DeGraaf, Devin Williamson and Dax Maddox also had hits for Crestview in the inning. All three hits drove in runs. DeGraaf and Williamson later came around to score.
A thankful coach
With another Justin Richards Scholarship Tournament in the books, Gillis put baseball in perspective as he praised Ronnie and Anita Richards, the parents of Justin Richards for who the tournament is named.
“I’m blessed to be a part of this,” he said. “Ronnie and Anita Richards mean the world to me as people and they are a big part of our program and they will continue to be. They have poured their heart and soul into it, just like Justin did and just like Carson, their other son, did.
“People, a lot of times, get caught up in the baseball part of things, and that’s great. But there are other things in this world that are more important; and for us to be a part of this is a big deal.
"They continue to amaze me with their grace and what they do to help people,” Gillis said.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.