It had been 11 years since a Bay County high school baseball team had competed for a state championship. Not only did Mosley discontinue that streak in Class 6A, it was joined by Bozeman as a Final Four entrant in Class 1A.
But it was Archbishop McCarthy that made Florida high school history when it knocked off Mosley 5-2 to become the first team in the state baseball tournament’s 90-year history to win four consecutive state championships.
Bozeman fell in the 1A semifinals for the second straight year. Holmes County also made the 1A Final Four, but was unable to duplicate its boys basketball championship from earlier in the year.
However, it wasn’t merely that Mosley and Bozeman made the elite field in their classifications that was noteworthy. How they got there was equally as dramatic.
Mosley trailed host Middleburgh 6-0 entering the top of the sixth inning of their Region 1-6A championship game before rallying for a 10-6 triumph.
“I told the guys before the game these were the remember-when situations. You’re going to talk about these games the rest of your life how you won, or how you lost when you could have won,” Mosley coach Todd Harless said.
“I told them in the third inning this remember-when isn’t looking really good is it. It was amazing the fight and the drive. They went into the box battling. Talk about never giving up.”
The Dolphins, who finished 28-4, then had to face Tampa King and University of Florida-bound pitcher Brett Morales in the state semifinals. Morales had allowed only five earned runs all season, but Mosley came out with a 2-0 victory.
Mosley right-hander Austin Bizzle pitched a one-hitter, and in the sixth inning Bowen McGuffin singled in Jordan Larry, who had doubled. The Dolphins added another in the seventh on Brady Bell’s sacrifice fly
King’s only hit against Bizzle was a bunt single in the fifth inning, the scoring initially ruled an error, but later amended to deprive the right-hander of a no-hitter.
Bozeman’s journey to state had it own mythical quality. The Bucks had to face Liberty County pitcher Hayden Swier in the Region 1-1A title game. Two weeks earlier, Swier had pitched a no-hitter against the Bucks in their district championship.
That forced Bozeman to travel throughout the region tournament, and the Bucks trailed the Bulldogs 3-1 entering the fourth inning of their rematch.
“We were on the ropes, our body language wasn’t great,” Bozeman coach Jeff Patton said. “We talked about it, almost like a prize fight. We were reeling, but we hit back.”
Bubba Thompson’s two-run triple in the fourth scored Christian Dillahey and Michael Cullen to give the Bucks a 4-3 lead. Bozeman scored twice more in the sixth. Cullen, Reed Ruddick and Lucas Carter each singled to make it 5-3 and pinch-runner Cole Barefield stole home for Bozeman on a set play for the sixth run.
It was 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh when Bozeman began celebrating following a game-ending double play. But a catcher’s interference call negated the double play, necessitating closer Garrett Hall to come on for the final two outs.
He got them.
“I tried to stay out on the field as long as I could so we could catch our breath a little bit,” Patton said of the interference ruling. “The guys were a little bit besides themselves. But our motto all year has been to keep playing.”
Bozeman ended up 19-10.