CRESTVIEW — Eight teams will be on hand when the Crestview High School baseball team hosts the Justin Richards Scholarship Baseball Tournament June 13-15.
Play starts at 9 a.m. June 13 and wraps up with the tournament championship game at 7 p.m. June 15.
Joining the Crestview Red and Gray teams will be squads from Baker, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Choctawhatchee, Marianna and Northview.
The Crestview Gray team won the 2012 tournament and will try to defend the title for the Bulldogs.
The tournament is the primary fundraiser for the Justin Richards Scholarship. Roman Donofro was the 2013 winner of the $1,500 scholarship.
In the past, out-of-state teams have comprised a large part of the tournament field. Last year, the team took on more of a local flavor, and the trend continues this year.
"We did it last year with more of a local thing and it kind of worked out," Bulldog Tim Gillis said. "We didn't go out searching for it that way.
"It makes it easier because if you have rain or something like that. You aren't sitting there saying, 'This (out of state) team has to leave tomorrow so we have to try and get this done.' It gives you a little more flexibility (working around bad weather)."
Having more of a local flavor gives the team a chance to play against teams that will be in its district next spring, Gillis said.
The Bulldogs are losing seven key starters and several backups to graduation, so this year's tournament and summer program are especially crucial for the team.
"I think it's (the tournament) always important, but this year you've got some guys that are unproven in game situations," Gillis said. "I have been pleased with the way they have worked the last year or so. Even not getting into a game situation, they have been mentally prepared, and physically at practice, they have really worked hard.
“This is an opportunity for them to get better and that's what it is all about in the summer. Summer for me is a tool. It's a tool to get better and prepare us for what's down the line."
Gillis is looking for a good turnout from local residents
"Our community support has been tremendous," he said. "I don't know that there is a better community around for support.
"The community support is critical not just to athletics, but to all of high school and the positive reinforcement that sports can have on high school, and it means a lot to our program."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.