After seven innings of no-score baseball, the South Walton Seahawks pushed a run across the plate in the bottom of the eighth for a 1-0 victory over the Freeport Bulldogs in a district contest Tuesday night in the Seahawks season opener.
“I like our guys' approach, they grinded it out,” said South Walton Coach Nick Borthwick. “We didn’t have many hits and we had a little base running blunder trying to be aggressive, but its baseball and we played hard.”
With both teams pitching staff on fire, each team only connected for two hits.
Freeport’s Hagen Brown, a senior, went the distance for the Bulldogs. He faced 29 batters, struck out 14, walked three and gave up two hits.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to their pitcher, he went eight innings strong,” Borthwick said. “What a great high school pitcher.”
Freeport Coach Shane Williams also had praise for Brown.
“I wanted him to go with him as long as I could and he was dealing,” Williams said. “He had 14 strikeouts … I couldn’t believe it. It was a heck of a game.
“And my hats off to South Walton they did a fine job … all we can do is keep playing,” he added.
South Walton used two on the mound.
Adam Richards, a senior, pitched the first five innings for South Walton. He faced 21 batters, struck out six, walked three and gave up two hits. Sophomore Taylor Collier came in and finished out the last three innings, facing nine Bulldogs and striking out two.
“I thought we played great defense … and we came out on top,” Borthwick said.
In the first inning, neither team got a runner on base. Richards struck out two and fielded a bunt for the third out. In the bottom half, South Walton’s Austin Garofalo grounded out to third and then Brown struck out the next two batters.
In the top of the second, Freeport threatened with a couple of base runners. Dalton Simpler and Brown each walked and moved around to second and third on a ground out to the pitcher. Richards then put it away with two strike outs.
Freeport sat South Walton down quickly on a groundout to Dylan Lewis and then two strikeouts by Brown.
In the top of the third, Freeport connected for its first hit of the game. With one out, Lewis singled to left center and moved around to second on a fielder’s choice by Karson Florence. The next batter grounded out and Lewis advanced to third. Simpler walked and then Richards struck out Brown.
In the bottom half, Brown sat the Seahawks down one-two-three on strike outs.
In the top of the fourth, Freeport connected for its second hit of the game. With two ground outs to short stop Garofalo, who made it look easy with quick throws to first, Lane Free ripped a single up the middle. Free never made it to second with Garofalo fielding another grounder for a put out at first.
Brown continued to sit the Seahawks down with a ground out to third and two Ks.
In the fifth, South Walton finally got a runner on base. With one out, Richards reached on a throwing error and stole second. Richards made it to third on a ground out by Kyle Vogler. Brown struck out the next Seahawk leaving Richards stranded.
In the sixth, the Seahawks got another runner on base. Tyler Holland walked but got picked off trying to steal second.
In the seventh, South Walton threatened again. Hunter Crawley singled to left, stole second and tried to make third, but was pegged on a throw by Ethan McFerrin. Chase Miles and Harris Barton drew back-to-back walks. Richards hit a fielder’s choice with Barton getting tagged at second. The next batter grounded out to push the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, the first two Bulldogs popped up to second baseman Crawley and the third to center fielder Holland.
Still throwing strong, Freeport’s Brown struck out the first Seahawk. Up next, Collier singled to left and Holland reached on an error. Freeport intentionally walked Garofalo to load the bases. Brown struck out the next batter but then Flint Bekkers, who was pinch running for Collier, slipped in home on a passed ball for the win.
With the win, South Walton is now 1-0 on the season, while Freeport moves to 2-1, and 0-1 in the district.
“I’m just thrilled with both teams and our guys just stayed with it and I hope we continue to get better,” Williams said.
South Walton was scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. at home Friday against Baker and then 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Chipley.
Freeport’s next home game is 6:30 p.m., March 9 against the Walton County Braves.