DAPHNE – The defending state-champion Bayshore Christian baseball team swept its way back to the Class 1A state semifinal after a pair of run-rule wins over the Berry Wildcats Thursday afternoon at Coastal Church.
The Eagles draw the Area 4 Champion Sweet Water Bulldogs in a best-of-three semifinal series set to start Friday, May 13. Bayshore met Sweet Water in the 2021 state quarterfinals en route to hoisting the state championship trophy.
In the 2022 state quarterfinal, junior John Malone struck out 15 and allowed only one hit in the Eagles’ 10-0, five-inning Game 1 victory before classmate Mikael Bryant finished off a perfect game – on his birthday – to clinch the best-of-three series with a 17-0 Game 2 win in four innings.
Malone dominated the opening game and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning where an infield single on a blooper registered the only Wildcat hit of the series. Of his 15 strikeouts, 10 Berry batters looked at a called third strike. At the plate, the junior recorded three hits and two RBIs and was only a home run away from the cycle.
Malone said the no-hitter entered his thoughts in the third inning and lamented the fact a bloop hit was all it took to erase it.
“I was a bit tight at the start, but I started feeling better in the third,” Malone said after Game 1. “I just looked at the bench like, ‘What a way to break up a 15-K no-hitter.’”
The Eagle bats came to life in the bottom of the fifth where five runs were scored to qualify for the run-rule win. Bayshore executed the message from Head Coach Jeff Hauge and kept the offensive momentum rolling as the away team in Game 2 where they plated six runs in the top of the first to set the tone.
From there, Bryant picked up where Malone left off but didn’t allow a single baserunner in Berry’s four innings of offense and racked up nine strikeouts.
“I knew (about it) but it’s that unwritten rule where if you say it, it doesn’t happen so I just tried to keep doing what I was doing the whole time,” Bryant said after Game 2. “I just tried to hit my spots and let them hit, make my defense work and hopefully pick up the win.”
Hauge was pleased with both pitchers’ outings and hoped those performances would carry into the next round.
“Both guys went out there with a warrior attitude and did the job for us,” Hauge said. “It was pretty hot today, but they hung in there and battled real well and you see the results. John got 15 strikeouts then you come in with Mikael who was throwing dimes in there, spotting his fastball, getting a good curveball over the plate and mixing in a changeup occasionally.”
Bayshore’s lone senior on the team, Cooper Schultze, knows the team’s focus is centered on the right things and noted the efforts they’ve put in on the practice field are starting to pay off.
“We’re trying to win as much as possible, not for ourselves but for the lord and our team. It’s just another game, take it all with a grain of salt,” Schultze said. “(My big takeaway is to) practice and play with intensity. Even in practice, we should be giving one-hundred-ten percent because that’s what is going to show in the game. We’ve had a couple good weeks of practice hitting the ball really well in practice and it showed today.”
Hauge agreed Bayshore’s mentality was in the right place but still planned on the following Friday’s practicing simulating a do-or-die Game 3.
“I just love our competitive spirit, I loved how we showed up ready to go, focused and not horsing around – still having fun but not taking it to an extreme,” Hauge said. “Tomorrow’s practice is going to be an intrasquad game as if it’s a Game 3 because you never know when one of those is going to happen.”