Blue Wahoos To Host State Ranked Prep Baseball Teams In Showcase Games
One baseball showcase ended Thursday (March 23) at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Hours later, another one began. After the final day of the Studer's Blue Wahoos Challenge collegiate event ended early Thursday afternoon with Wisconsin-Whitewater playing Hendrix College of Conway, Arkansas, some of the top high school teams in Northwest Florida
One baseball showcase ended Thursday (March 23) at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Hours later, another one began.
After the final day of the Studer's Blue Wahoos Challenge collegiate event ended early Thursday afternoon with Wisconsin-Whitewater playing Hendrix College of Conway, Arkansas, some of the top high school teams in Northwest Florida shared the spotlight in a series of games beginning that evening.
Unbeaten South Walton High (10-0), the No. 1 ranked team in Florida’s Class 4A and No. 9 overall in all state classifications was set to play Tate (9-2) on Thursday (7 p.m.) as a featured game in the of a two-day, six-team event at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Tate is currently ranked No. 9 in Class 6A and No. 35 in all state levels.
“The (Aggie) Classic was a great experience (March 13-18) and this Wahoos tournament is right on top of that,” said Tate coach Karl Jernigan, who arranged the 22-team Aggie Classic, won by Pace High, and has helped put together this set of games at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Pensacola Catholic (9-2)l faced Panama City-Arnold (5-4) in Thursday’s first game at 4 p.m. The Crusaders are ranked No. 13 in Class 3A in Florida.
On Friday, Northview (6-2) and Jay (8-1) are set to rpeat their special rivalry game at 4 p.m. in a unique setting at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The teams’ first meeting was Thursday at Jay. Both are ranked in the Top 10 in Florida’s Class 1A.
Tate will then close out the event on Friday at 7 p.m. against Arnold. Tickets are $8 for each day and includes both games.
On Monday, March 27, Gulf Breeze and Escambia High will play in a separate game at Blue Wahoos Stadium to close out a busy March that included the 28-game, Studer’s Blue Wahoos Challenge collegiate tournament of NCAA Division III teams. With the previous prep games of Baker-Pensacola High, Milton-West Florida High weeks earlier, it has brought 12 Northwest Florida high school teams to the ballpark.
“We’ve got some really great local (prep) teams in the area playing (at Blue Wahoos Stadium),” said Jernigan, who has worked with Blue Wahoos’ events sales manager Shannon Reeves for the last couple years to put together a set of back-to-back high school games.”
“I had both South Walton and Arnold reach out to back in the summer last year to come over here to play at Wahoos Stadium. And I thought that was a great addition to get both of those teams. “I think to be able to have that experience with kids able to play on that turf, that stadium and atmosphere is always awesome.”
Northview coach Jeremy Greenwell contacted Jernigan about his team playing Jay at the stadium. It meant giving up a home game, which is something the Chiefs were willing to do in order to play in this setting.
Jernigan said he’s willing to take on extra work and relinquish potential home games at Tate High in order to play at Blue Wahoos Stadium. In exchange for playing at the stadium, the high school teams agree to purchase tickets for Blue Wahoos games to sell in their community to cover the operational costs.
“Shannon does a great job arranging everything and kind of getting everything set up,” Jernigan said. “So, it’s easier for me because (Blue Wahoos staff) does a lot of the hard work. I have the easy part of getting everyone there as far as the teams.
“My thing is I do it for the kids. That’s why I coach,” said Jernigan, a former Milton High and Florida State Seminoles star player who went on to play professional baseball. “To try and make a difference in a kid’s life one way or the other.
“I want them to experience these opportunities. This is a prime example of it. I want the guys to be on that field, play on that field and have that opportunity. We’re going to play two really good baseball teams (Thursday and Friday) to go along with it. And hopefully we give the fans a good game.”
Jernigan said work began on the Aggie Classic nearly a year ago. This year, six area teams – Niceville. Booker T. Washington, Gulf Breeze, Catholic and Pace joined Tate in hosting games.
“The Classic was awesome this yea. And the thing I was most excited about was being able to get our area (teams) back in it. I think it got back to where it used to be back whenever I played in it and you had pretty much every team in our area playing.
“I brought in some really good teams from Oklahoma and Tennessee. And those teams travel really well. And they had good squads, good programs. And the talent we have in this area was right there with it. And with Pace winning it, that tells you that baseball in our area is really good.
“I think we take it for granted sometimes of how good baseball is in our area.”
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: High School Baseball Events
WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium
WHEN: Thursday, Friday and Monday (March 27).
SCHEDULE: Thursday -- Pensacola Catholic vs. Panama City-Arnold at 4 p.m., then Tate vs. South Walton High at 7 p.m. Friday – Northview vs. Jay at 4 p.m, then Tate vs. Arnold at 7 p.m. Monday – Gulf Breeze vs. Escambia at 6:30 p.m.
TICKETS: $8 general admission each day.
REMINDER: Blue Wahoos Stadium is now a cashless venue. But gift cards can be purchased at box office or the Bait & Tackle merchandise store to be used for concessions and store purchases and the card can be refilled for any amount.