Experience sets semifinal tone for Bozeman, Sneads

FORT MYERS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - After nearly 30 games this season and about one more hour of practice Wednesday morning, it'll be time for Bozeman and Sneads to play on the big stage at the Minnesota Twins' CenturyLink Sports Complex.

The Bucks and Pirates play in separate semifinals, with Sneads (20-8) on the field first against Williston (19-9) at 10 ET followed by Bozeman (27-2) vs. Chiefland (13-10) at 1 ET.

As usual, the refrain from players and coaches is that they're approaching it like "just another game," but it's one of if not the biggest game of their lives.

That’s where Bozeman hopes experience comes in—they have nine seniors—starting pitcher Cade Parker, Cody Herron, and Kyle Gilmore among those who played on the program's third Final Four team in 2016.

The routine will be the same and they hope the result will be the same as most of their games this year: a win.

“Once the game starts rolling, you definitely settle in a lot more and you’re just playing your normal game," Parker, an FAU signee said. "I played as a freshman. I have that in my back pocket and going out there to play as a senior is going to be something awesome.”

Head coach Jeff Patton has taken the program this far in 2012, 2013 and 2016. The most recent trips both resulted in losses to Chiefland.

That's not something on the kids' minds. Neither is the pressure of the moment...at least not yet.

"They're as loose as they were on the first day of practice, you know? They have a lot of confidence in their ability. They know they're playing well, and they know they're good. They believe in what they're doing."

The Bucks enter on a 21 game win streak.

Sneads makes its second trip to the state semis in three years, but this is the first time under head coach Andy Shelton and they do so with only four seniors.

The Pirates left for Fort Myers Tuesday so that foursome, Mac Danford, River Clark, Trent Barbee, and Jay Hayes could walk at graduation the night before.

Shelton gives significant playing time to a combined eight freshman and sophomores.

“It was kind of a force of necessity with our lack of numbers in our senior and junior class that all these young guys got to play, but they’ve responded," Shelton said after practice Monday.

By their own admission, their youthful exuberance has taxing at times—but even as they've matured, it's something that might put them at ease.

“You really get to see it when you play sports with guys how much they grow as a person," Sneads senior DH Jay Hayes said. "Their maturity level has just skyrocketed."

Watch for highlights and post game reaction from here and the 1A softball state championship in Vero Beach on all our platforms throughout the day.