GULFPORT -- Whenever he had the chance this spring, Ron Hirst scheduled a day game for Bayshore's baseball team.
The reason was twofold. Hirst has a night job, so 4 p.m. starts fit better into his schedule. The other reason was his hunch that the road to the Class 5A-District 10 championship could go right through Gulfport Boca Ciega's baseball stadium, which doesn't have lights.
So he wanted to get his players accustomed to playing ball under the sun.
Judging by how the Bruins played Friday, the move paid off.
Bayshore rolled past the top-seeded Pirates 7-1 to clinch its first district baseball title since 2008.
"I knew a playoff game could happen here without lights," said Hirst, while his players took pictures with the title trophy in tow. "I just thought having a good mix of games would keep them fresh for this opportunity."
Bayshore even played 4 p.m. games at its home stadium, which does have lights and will host a Region 3 quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Bruins meet Tampa Robinson.
"Any games that were Monday through Thursday, we played at 4," Hirst said, "just to be acclimated for 4 o'clock games when you get to the playoffs."
The Bruins (13-14) looked very comfortable Friday, though their starter, Julian Valdivia, played a big role in that. The senior righty recorded just one strikeout but induced eight groundouts, two of which were rolled into double plays.
Valdivia allowed back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth but retired Tanner Watkins on a comebacker. And with Tully Allen standing on third with one out in the fourth and the game tied at 0, Valdivia got Joshua Schaeffer on another one-hopper back to the mound and Darius Blasingane to pop out.
"Danny's our strikeout guy, and I just get the ground balls," Valdivia said of teammate Daniel Schroeder. "All I was thinking all game was stay calm, you've got the defense. Let the defense work, just throw strikes and get ground balls."
The teams traded zeroes until second-seeded Bayshore broke the deadlock during a bizarre fifth inning. Schroeder led off with a double but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, even though it appeared he beat the tag. Justin Lakin followed with a single and, one out later, went to third on a base hit by Jose Rosado.
With Chase Richardson at the plate, Rosado broke from first. And when Allen, the Pirates' starting pitcher, attempted to pick him off before spinning around to make sure Lakin wasn't trying to score, he was called for a balk, allowing Lakin to trot home with the game's first run.
Bayshore's bats awoke an inning later, when they scored six runs on RBI hits from Schroeder (3-for-4, RBI, run scored), Valdivia (two hits, RBI, run scored, stolen base), Lakin and Jason Clayton. Richardson drew a bases-loaded walk, and Abis Peralta lifted a sacrifice fly to left to cap the scoring.
The Pirates scratched home a run in the sixth, but were turned away by Bayshore left fielder Andrew Kurutz, who made a diving catch on Christopher Williams' liner with the bases loaded.
"They really bought into everything we're trying to work on, and that's just focusing on team," said Hirst, who has coached Bayshore to two of its three district baseball titles. "They've really focused on each other, and that's really made the difference. ... We've worked really hard defensively."
After retiring Allen on a groundout, Valdivia tossed his glove and cap in the air before the Bruins formed a pile near the pitcher's mound.
"I've been at Bayshore four years. My senior year, to win the district championship means a lot," Valdivia said. "Especially with the boys."