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Tuesday, Mar 03, 2015

Brooksville seeks to rebound; Spring Hill debuts

Hernando Today correspondent


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Something old and something new has materialized in anticipation of Saturday's Dixie Youth League Baseball T-Ball (ages 5-6) District 6 Tournament.

Ten teams representing five local counties - Hernando, Pasco, Citrus, Lake and Sumter - will take part in the expected week-long, double-elimination tournament beginning today at the Bushnell Community Center.

The field is expected to include: Hernando Youth League-Brooksville, San Antonio, Spring Hill, South Lake, Sumter/Webster, Wesley Chapel Navy, Wesley Chapel Red, Wildwood Blue, Wildwood White and host Bushnell.

Wildwood, which did not field two teams last summer, is the defending District 6 champion.

Historically, Brooksville has typically opened its all-star summer season with this event. It'll open play against one of the expected tourney favorites, Wesley Chapel Red, at 10 a.m.

Another long-time participant, Ridge Manor, has opted not to play.

Interestingly, one of the district's most competitive programs over the past decade, Spring Hill, is entering its first-ever T-Ball event. The West Hernando program debuts at 2 p.m. against Wildwood Blue.

???Brooksville is looking to bounce back after going 1-2 in 2012 under skipper Sean Harmon. The Brooksville nine was outscored 81-52, solving only Ridge Manor, 29-19.

Since 2002, Brooksville is a combined 25-26 (.490) in this age group. Only one Brooksville team has ever reached states - the 2011 all-star squad guided by Kevin Bittinger that placed third in District 6 and eventually finished tied for third at states.

Hernando County's two lone District 6 titles belong to the 2002 squad guided by Tom Bronson Sr. (5-1) and 2005 squad led by Bruce Price (6-1). Neither of those two teams advanced to states because until three years ago T-Ball teams did not hold a state event.

Brooksville's 2013 squad features: 3B Davion Bickford, R-CF James Bishop IV, LF Colten Cloud, SS/2B Kaine Ellis, LF Ernie Gay, 2B/SS Braden Harmon, 1B/P Niko Janssens, RF Pittman Jernigan, C John Leite, P/1B Mason Morgan RF Xander Turner and L-CF D'Treyvion Wilson.

The Brooksville nine will be led by J.P. Janssens. He'll be assisted by Cole Brinson, Tyson Ellis, and Ernest Gay.

Janssens' strength lies with a trio of returning all-stars from 2012 including his son Niko along with Harmon and Morgan.

"The weather has put us behind a couple days from where we would like to be," analyzed Coach Janssens.

Janssens, who served as an all-star assistant coach last year, detailed his first impressions.

"I've timed these kids in practice and we've got some guys who can run. As far as hitting, our batting has been awesome," he said.

On what Brooksville learned from last summer, "Take away the win against Ridge Manor and we flat out got smoked," said Coach Janssens. "Last year, we didn't adjust to playing at the larger-size fields. We did this year. From Day 1, we played all season running along the longer base paths - that makes a big difference offensively and defensively."

On focusing on his club, "Our three best players are all in the infield," said Janssens. "Niko is the tallest kid out there and has a great glove - that's why he's at first. Harmon comes from a family of ballplayers. He has all the baseball tools thanks to his dad and his brother. . Morgan is a little guy, but he doesn't back away from anything. He'll play pitcher and first base. The kid attacks the baseball."

On the tourney favorites, "I'd point to host Bushnell or either one of the Wildwood teams - they might have most of those kids from last year's championship team," declared Janssens.

???The inaugural Spring Hill team is expected to feature: RF/2B Jack Barnum, P/C Cody Bishop, 2B/RF Travis Clark, 3B Raymond Groetsch, P/CF Brandon Higgins, C/CF Zachary Hotop, SS Brady McMurdo, CF/2B Hunter Richardson, 2B Michael Rizzuto, 3B/LF Tyler Shugarts Jr., CF/SS Logan Sway and 1B Andrew Ward.

First-year skipper Craig Hotop will be assisted by Tyler Shugarts Sr., Scott Weber and Lee Clark.

At first glance, Coach Hotop was impressed with his collection of players.

"We've got a tremendous amount of talent for this age group," he said. "I was astounded by the concentration of talent when they first got together. The amount of baseball IQ kind of humbled me."

Like most all-star squads, Spring Hill is infield-heavy, "We've very infield-oriented," noted Hotop, but we've put in a lot of time with our outfield.

"Perhaps the biggest challenge for us is the format," he added. "We're primarily a coach-pitch league. It's not an insurmountable change, but it's a challenge."

Despite his league's lack of participation in T-Ball, Coach Hotop has high aspirations beginning Saturday.

"My expectations are very high. I'd like us to play at the level we're capable of," he said. "Will the other teams kind of take us light because we're the new guys? Based on our league's success, I don't think anyone will take us for granted."

At a Glance

What - Dixie Youth League District 6 T-Ball (ages 5-6) Tournament.

Who - Ten teams in a week-long, double-elimination format featuring: HYL-Brooksville, San Antonio, Spring Hill, South Lake, Sumter/Webster, Wesley Chapel Navy, Wesley Chapel Red, Wildwood Blue, Wildwood White and host Bushnell.

Where - Bushnell Community Center, 407 E. Belt Ave., Bushnell.

When - Today through May 31 (weather permitting). Saturday, June 1 is a make-up day.

At Stake - District champion, district runner-up and third-place finisher will advance to July 6 T-Ball State Championship Tournament in Sebring. At the discretion of state tournament director, a fourth-place team could also advance to states.

HYL-Brooksville T-Ball (ages 5-6) All-Stars


1 Niko Janssens* 1B/P

2 James Bishop IV RCF

3 Xander Turner RF

6 Pittman Jernigan RF

7 Ernie Gay LF

8 Kaine Ellis SS/2B

9 Colten Cloud LF

10 John Leite C

11 Braden Harmon* 2B/SS

13 Davion Bickford 3B

12 D'Treyvion Wilson LCF

44 Mason Morgan* P/1B

* Denotes returning all-star selection.

Head Coach - J.P. Janssens

Assistant Coach - Tyson Ellis

Assistant Coach - Ernest Gay

Assistant Coach - Cole Brinson

Spring Hill T-Ball All-Stars


1 Tyler Shugarts Jr. 3B/LF

2 Zachary Hotop C/CF

3 Brady McMurdo SS

4 Michael Rizzuto 2B

9 Logan Sway CF/SS

11 Jack Barnum RF/2B

16 Hunter Richardson CF/2B

18 Raymond Groetsch 3B

20 Cody Bishop P/C

35 Travis Clark 2B/RF

89 Brandon Higgins P/CF

99 Andrew Ward 1B

Head Coach - Craig Hotop

Assistant Coach - Tyler Shugarts

Assistant Coach - Scott Weber

Assistant Coach - Lee Clark

Final 2012 District 6 T-Ball Tourney Team Standings from Wildwood


1. Wildwood 5 0 1.000 130 74

2. Wesley Chapel American 3 2 .600 99 68

3. Bushnell 2 2 .500 114 96

4. Wesley Chapel National 2 2 .500 95 88

5. (tie)Hernando 1 2 .333 52 81

5. (tie)South Lake 1 2 .333 54 65

7. (tie)Ridge Manor 0 2 .000 31 52

7. (tie)Webster 0 2 .000 16 67

TOTALS 14 14 .500

HYL Dixie League T-Ball Recap (2002-12)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Year Team Coach W L .PCT RS RA Ratio PL

2002 HYL American Tom Bronson 5 1 .833 184 145 +39 1st

2002 HYL National Swede Oleander 0 2 .000 58 77 <19> -

2003 HYL American Don Whitehead 0 2 .000 51 64 <13> -

2003 HYL National Brent Young 0 2 .000 39 45 <6> -

2004 HYL American Don Whitehead 2 2 .500 110 108 +2 -

2004 HYL National Christie Williams 0 2 .000 45 67 <22> -

2005 HYL Bruce Price 6 1 .857 142 65 +78 1st

2006 HYL Mark Griffith 1 2 .333 71 85 <14> -

2007 HYL Tom Williams 0 2 .000 39 60 <21> -

2008 HYL Don Whitehead 1 2 .333 61 80 <19> -

2009 HYL Steve Taylor 1 2 .333 66 68 <2> -

2010 HYL Wes Van Alstine 1 2 .333 90 96 <6> -

2011$ HYL Kevin Bittinger 7 4 .636 236 49 +187 3rd

2012 HYL Sean Harmon 1 2 .333 52 81 <29> -

$ Denotes state qualifier/placed tied for third

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