Despite an early end to the season, the Milton baseball team still has a lot to be thankful for as it looks ahead to next year.
“We have our middle infield coming back,” Milton coach George Blake said. “Chase and Chance Shell coming back on the mound. Justin Raley, the sophomore at first — we have some things coming back that we started. We have a guy in the outfield that played significantly, a lot of our infield …
“We’re losing Bryton Melvin and some other first baseman. We’re going to miss Taylor Ford behind the plate … We have a lot of work to do, we’ll just have to get on it this summer.”
The Shell duo, both juniors, were stellar this season on both offense and defense as Chance turned in 18 hits and 8 RBIs across 24 games played while Chase turned in 16 hits and seven RBIs across 27 games.
The Panthers season ended last week in the Region 1-6A quarterfinals after getting edged 2-1 by Columbia.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fifth, Milton scored on a Taylor Ford run before their opponents squashed the Panthers best chance at a rally.
“We ended up with the bases loaded with one out (after Ford scored),” said George Blake, Milton coach. “The pitcher did a good job, he struck us out and we hit a ground ball to end the inning.
“We had an opportunity right there. If we had a big hit, I think we would have been alright.”
Five area baseball teams still alive
Five area baseball teams remain alive in the postseason, but only one is guaranteed to advance to Friday’s region final round.
Catholic and West Florida High will meet for the fourth time this season when they compete in the Region 1-4A semifinal at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Jaguars hold the 3-0 edge in the series this season — including the District 1-4A championship game — with two of their wins coming by just one run.
Also competing in Region 1A semifinals at 6 p.m. on Tuesday — Central travels to Graceville while the Northview Chiefs will host Liberty County. Navarre will travel to Tallahassee to take on Chiles in a 1-7A matchup.
Tate, Jay softball returns to state
For a second-consecutive year the Tate Aggies and Jay Royals will represent the Panhandle together as both teams compete in their state tournament series at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
The Royals are up first, playing Sneads in Class 1A state semifinals Wednesday morning, while Tate faces off against Bartow in the Class 7A semifinals in the afternoon.
The championship games would be Thursday.
Track seasons conclude
Area track and field teams put the 2015 season in the books over the weekend as local teams competed in the Class 3A, 2A and 1A state meets in Jacksonville.
While no state champions were crowned locally this year, athlete competing across a multitude of events brought home 22 total medals from the meets hosted by the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
The two highest local finishes came from West Florida High’s Dane Stolsig — who took second in the 2A discus competition with a toss of 164-08 — and Milton’s Dominique Craig, who turned in a time of 14.03 to finish second in the 3A 110 hurdles.
As far as teams, the highest local finish came courtesy of the West Florida High boys who took ninth place in the 2A meet with 21 points.
In the 3A meet, no local representatives finished in the top 10 as a team.
“Last year we took four kids down there, this year we took 10 and all of them are coming back except for my pole vaulter,” said Pine Forest girls coach Paul Bryan. “Next year we’ll probably do more damage.
“Just about everybody PR’d (Saturday). This year we were just looking at it as trying to take as many people as we could.”
Jay’s Herring is the Athlete of the Week
Jay High softball player Destiny Herring is the PNJ Athlete of the Week following her standout performance in last week’s region semifinal against Franklin County.
Herring’s two-run homer on a full count in the bottom of the first inning set the tone as the Royals battled to an 11-1 win in six innings.
The sophomore finished the day 2-for-3 with two runs scored, two RBIs to go with her homer while also turning in five innings of work in the circle.