LIVE OAK, Fla. — To put into perspective what the Suwannee High baseball team has accomplished this season, the Bulldogs entered 2019 with just 10 playoff wins in school history and zero appearances in a state championship game.
After three wins this postseason, including a thrilling 3-1 victory against powerhouse Bolles, Suwannee has a chance to make history this week in Fort Myers.
SHS takes on Melbourne Central Catholic at 10 a.m. Wednesday with a spot in the state championship on the line.
“These past two months have been pretty special to us,” said Wyatt Morrill, a first baseman/pitcher and one of eight seniors on the team. “We’ve all played together since little league days, we’re all really good friends. It feels like a dream come true to get there senior year.”
Senior second baseman Josh Wharton also spoke about the significance of reaching a state semifinal.
“We (Suwannee) haven’t done that in like 50 years. Out of all the teams that could have been at this point, this year, my senior year, is the year that we did. It’s amazing,” Wharton said. “I’m really blessed to be on this team.”
Backed by a strong pitching staff which carries a 2.35 ERA, Suwannee went 19-9 in the regular season and earned victories against Lincoln, Leon and Chiles along the way. While pitching has been the focal point of the team, the Bulldogs have showed they can win in different ways.
They are averaging more than six runs per game and seven players have contributed 10 or more RBIs this season. It’s been a good combination of speed and power as the Bulldogs have hit eight home runs and stolen 45 bases. Marquis Jones and Dalton Croft lead the team with 11 stolen bases apiece.
There were a few hiccups during the season with back-to-back losses on two occasions and two defeats in the final inning. But the senior-heavy team responded each time.
In the playoffs, Suwannee has dominated with the pitching duo of Bo Bonds (9-1, 0.82 ERA, 68 1-3 innings pitched this season) and junior Drew Law paving the way to Fort Myers.
“Just like any team, we had some kinks we had to work out,” said Bonds, who recently set a Suwannee High record for strikeouts in a season with 107, passing Matthew Pennington’s mark of 106. “We’ve gotten a whole lot better since the beginning of the year. I’m happy where we’re at."
Added Bonds about the keys for his team in Fort Myers: “Probably the main thing is no errors. We’ve got to play our A game, everything counts.”
Bonds, whose last start was a complete-game, three-hitter against Bolles on May 18, is likely to get the ball in the state semifinal against a 23-6 Melbourne Central Catholic team. The Hustlers will probably counter with Stetson signee Nick Durgin (8-1, 0.35 ERA, 60 1-3 innings, 97 strikeouts).
On paper, Suwannee and MCC look very similar. The Hustlers have a strong pitching staff and allow less than two runs per game. They also have some pop with seven home runs as a team and 45 doubles.
This is Suwannee’s first appearance in a Final Four since 1967.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will face either Bishop Moore or Cardinal Gibbons on Thursday at 4 p.m.