CHIPLEY — Bozeman didn’t give up its crown without a fight, but Chipley seized the throne as the new region champion Tuesday night.
Chipley scored an unearned run in the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie, and the Tigers advanced to the Class 1A baseball state semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Bozeman in the Region 2-1A finals at Tiger Field.
Chipley (22-7) is making its first-ever appearance in the Final Four and will play Lafayette — a 9-5 winner over defending champion Trenton — in the state semifinals on Monday. Bozeman, which had emerged as the region champs each of the past two years, ended its season 20-8.
Tigers coach Andy Compton has been the head coach at Chipley for the past 11 years. His past two teams won a combined 18 games before coming together this year and producing the most successful team in school history.
“I don’t know what words to use right now,” Compton said. “We’ve worked so hard for so long. ... We’ve fought and fought, and we knew when we got in this league that we had a chance.”
The game’s starting pitchers — Chipley’s Daniel Floyd and Bozeman’s Brandon Suttles — were locked in a tense, showdown in which neither team could score through the first five innings.
The Tigers finally broke through in the sixth against Suttles, who pitched 47 innings this season without allowing an earned run. Shelby Savel walked to lead off the inning. One out later, Andrew King singled into left field to put runners on first and second. Colby Wiggins’ groundball up the middle resulted in an infield error, and Savel raced home with the game’s only run.
Floyd, who allowed only two hits and struck out nine, retired the Bucks in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.
Floyd, a sophomore, recalled last summer’s Dixie Pre-Majors State Tournament when he was on the mound in the seventh inning with a one-run lead in the championship game and allowed two runs to score to suffer a heartbreaking defeat.
He used that experience to bolster his efforts against a Bozeman team unable to mount any offense against him. The Bucks didn’t advance a runner beyond second base, and they had two runners on base just once. Floyd ended that threat in the fourth inning with consecutive strikeouts.
“This is awesome,” he said. “That’s the only word for it.”
Added Compton: “For a 10th-grader to come in here and pitch like that ... we knew he had it in him.”
D.J. Oliver, a senior who will play at Lawson State in Birmingham, Ala., next year, said young players such as Floyd and Savel have made a sizable contribution on the field and helped reverse the team’s recent fortunes. Savel, in particular, atoned for an error in the sixth with a remarkable grab over the fence down the third-base line to record an out.
“The young guys want to win,” Oliver said. “People like that want to put in 110 percent. ... We’re going to the state semis, and no words can describe that. This is one of the biggest things that’s ever happened to me and for Chipley. It’s bigger than graduation.”
Both programs exhibited respect for each other after the game with compliments headed in both directions. Bozeman coach Jeff Patton praised the Tigers and their head coach.
“They are a great baseball team,” he said. “I’ve been coaching a long time, and this was one of the best games I’ve seen. I’m proud for Chipley and coach Compton. I understand the job we have, and it’s not easy all the time.”
Suttles gave up just three hits, and he worked his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth with a strikeout and groundout.
“He’s amazing,” Patton said of Suttles’ 0.00 ERA this season. “He does everything he’s asked to do, and he competes. He gave the team every chance to win tonight. He’s a special kid.”
Bozeman 000 000 0 — 0 2 4
Chipley 000 001 x — 1 3 1
Suttles (L) and Thompson; Floyd (W) and Spencer.
Paxton 7, Blountstown 6
PAXTON — Grant Stewart hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to force extra innings, Paxton’s defense turned two pivotal double plays in crunch time, and Austin Burlison drove in Ian Forehand with a blooper to right to lift Paxton to their first-ever Final Four in eight innings.
The win pushed the Bobcats to 20-4.
Blountstown scored four runs in the first inning, but couldn’t maintain its lead. The damage started with Stewart walking Colby Mullins, Hunter Jordan and Chasen Roulhac with one out. Tyreek Sumner then missed a grand slam by mere feet off the left-field fence and settled for an RBI single, followed by a two-run single to left from Dylan Lee. Ridge Dietz capped the four-run inning with a sacrifice fly to right.
Austin Carnley had a two-run single as Paxton closed within 4-3. The Tigers responded in the fourth on a leadoff double by Bryson Horne, walk to Tanner Peacock, sacrifice bunt from Derek Eberly and a two-run double by Mullins to push the lead to 6-3.
Stewart’s homer tied it in the sixth.