South Walton Seahawks shut down Chipley

Tina Harbuck

The South Walton Seahawks put together four hits to pull off a 2-0 win over the Chipley Tigers in the Class 1A Regional Finals in Chipley and earn a trip to state.

"All I can say is thank the good Lord for giving us the opportunity to play baseball and do what we love," said South Walton Coach Nick Borthwick. "That's a beautiful game right there."

This was the fourth time the Seahawks and the Tigers have met this season with the Seahawks taking three victories, including the one that counts for a trip to the Florida High School Athletic Association 1A Baseball Championships.

“That was groundbreaking for our program and school,” said South Walton Athletic Director Phil Tisa. “I couldn’t be happier for the boys and Coach Borthwick. He has worked tirelessly to raise the level of the program.”

South Walton will take on Madison County at 1 p.m. on Wednesday in the 1A State Semifinals played at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

“This is a dream come true,” Borthwick said.

This is the first South Walton boy’s team, outside of golf, to make it to the final four.

“We’ve had a lot of firsts this year,” said an excited Borthwick.

The Seahawks, who have chalked up 26 wins this season, had their first playoff win over Liberty County last week, first regional win Tuesday over Chipley and now their first trip to the final four.

But the baseball team didn’t get there without putting in the work in the weight room and on the practice field.

“We knew we had the ability to get there … it’s a dream come true,” Borthwick said.

As for their semifinal opponent Madison County, Borthwick said they are “very athletic.”

Madison County, 18-12, beat the 1A reigning champs Lafayette Mayo three out of four times this season, with the last being a 3-2 win in the Regional Finals.

In South Walton’s Regional Final shutout over Chipley, the Seahawk defense did their job.

"We played hard and we battled and played good defense," Borthwick said.

South Walton’s shortstop Austin Garofalo, second baseman Hunter Crawley and first baseman Taylor Collier combined for two double plays, plus the defense committed only two errors.

"We've got a lot of freshmen and sophomores that want to win and senior Adam Richards pitched his butt off tonight," Borthwick said right before getting doused with the water jug.

Richards got the win facing 26 batters, striking out seven, walking four and giving up three hits.

As for the South Walton sticks, Kyle Vogler had two hits, while Chase Miles and Austin Garofalo each had one.

In the top of the first, South Walton went down quickly on two groundouts and a pop fly.

Chipley got a runner on base in the bottom half. With one out, Brayden Gainey singled to right center and then stole second and moved around to third on a passed ball. Richards stuck out the next batter and then walked a Tiger. With runners on the corners, third baseman Aidan Keenan scooped up a grounder from Dominic Bouton and fired it to first for the third out.

In the second, South Walton went three up, three down again.

Richards stuck out the first Tiger in the bottom half, and then walked one. Crawley, Garofalo and Collier then pulled off their first of two double plays when Brian Williams tried to hit one up the middle.

South Walton almost got a break in the top of the third. With two outs, Tyler Holland reached on an error. Up next, Garofalo blasted a single to left and Holland tried to make third but was pegged for the third out.

In the fourth, South Walton finally put a run on the board. With one out, Miles walked then the next Seahawk struck out. Keenan drew a walk and Crawley reached on an error with Miles slipping in home. The next batter popped up to right field and South Walton led 1-0.

The Seahawks put one more in the books in the top of the sixth. Miles ripped a single to left and moved around on a bunt sacrifice from Harris Barton. Keenan reached on a fielder’s choice and Miles scored on a throwing error by the Tigers.

In the bottom of the sixth, South Walton pulled off its second double play and Richards rang up his sixth strike out of the night.

In the seventh, South Walton held the Tigers in check. Richards struck out his seventh batter and Crawley scooped up a grounder and made a throw to first for the second out. The next batter walked and then Gauge Carter reached on an error. With runners on the corner, the next batter grounded out with the Seahawks taking the win.

The team will leave Monday and head down south for Wednesday’s game.

“We’re going to do what we do … not going to change a thing. We’re going to do what got us 26 wins,” Borthwick said. “We’re going to play our game. I like our chances.”