By BLAKE MCCORMICK
Freeport is still a capable baseball team, just like they were back on Feb. 28 when they took South Walton to extra innings before losing 1-0.
South Walton, however, is no longer the good team they were on that mild winter night. The Seahawks have turned from good…to scary good.
After Dylan Lewis smacked a lead-off home run to give Freeport an early 1-0 lead, it looked like another classic might be in the making. However, South Walton drilled 14 hits and scored 15 runs over the next two innings as the visiting team blasted their intra-county rivals 15-1.
“One of our goals was to be 10-0 in the district and we’ve accomplished our first goal,” said South Walton coach Nick Borthwick. “We have several more to go.”
Prior to a 4-0 loss to Class 6A Niceville on April 7, the Class A Seahawks had an impressive 11-3 record and had won their games by an average margin of 6-2; not bad. However, since that defeat, the squad from South of the Bay has crushed their last six opponents by a combined score of 71-8, and six of those runs given up came from Choctaw, a 6A school.
“That’s why we play bigger schools, to play good teams to get better and then when you beat them it gives you a huge confidence boost and then you can get on a roll, and we’re rolling.”
South Walton’s in-season transformation into becoming a juggernaut has had a lot to do with improved hitting, an area that has been solid all season but has evolved into something nothing less than astonishing. For perspective, imagine that most coaches would be amazed to get 13 home runs from their team in a season. Borthwick’s crew has garnered that from one player alone, Austin Garofalo. Total, the big hitters from Santa Rosa Beach have smacked a mind-numbing 25 homers with Chase Miles adding five, Harris Barton three, and Adam Richards and Aiden Keenan popping two apiece.
“We had a little spell midway through the season where we were struggling and couldn’t get out of our own way. We were winning with pitching and defense. But, our bats have come alive now, and we’re hitting with a lot of confidence. We wear out that hitting cage and we hit everyday with a certain routine. We have some great hitting coaches that work with us.”
South Walton’s players and coaches have lofty goals for this season. With a team that is continuing to improve and playing at such a high level heading into the postseason, those expectations are continuing to look more and more achievable.
“It’s our goal, every time we step on the field, to give it our best. As long as we keep doing that, I have no doubt we can accomplish our goals of winning a district championship, regional championship, and state championship.”
The Seahawks close out the regular season with a road game at Panama City Arnold on Thursday at 5 p.m. before returning home for a rematch with Holmes County on Friday night at 6 p.m. South Walton blasted the Bluedevils 10-0 in Bonifay on Friday night to move to 17-4 overall on the year.
By BLAKE MCCORMICK