WILDWOOD – It took 381 days for Bushnell’s Dixie T-Ball (ages 5-6) All-Stars to extract a measure of revenge against Spring Hill Saturday afternoon during the fifth round of the District 6 Tournament.
On May 29, 2013, Spring Hill thumped host Bushnell via the mercy rule in 4 1/2 innings at Bushnell’s Community Center, 33-11. That loss ousted the hosts from the tourney.
Eventual fourth-place district placer Spring Hill advanced to Sebring and improved, finishing as state runner-up to Wildwood Blue.
A year later at jam-packed Millennium Park in Wildwood, Coach Cory McNeal’s Bushnell squad turned the tables on Dave Lawson’s Spring Hill nine in a seven-inning thrill ride, 31-28.
With the win, Bushnell (3-2) locked up third place and automatically joined district runner-up Wildwood and district champion Wesley Chapel at the State Championship starting July 5 in Mulberry.
Tied 23-all after six regulation innings, Bushnell, which overcame a game-high 11 errors behind a game-high 30 hits, pushed across eight runs on six hits and three Spring Hill (2-3) errors in the seventh.
Coach McNeal’s son, Waylon McNeal, gave him a special early Father’s Day gift behind a stout 3-for-4 effort featuring a double (off the left-field fence) and two homers over the 125-foot deep center-field fence, knocking in five runs.
Waylon McNeals’s two-run homer in the third inning took a back seat to his three-run clout in the seventh.
“The two homers felt good,” said the 7-year-old McNeal. “This was really fun because now I get to go to states with my best pal (Colter Shea).”
Not that Waylon was alone. Cody Deason, hitting out of the No. 10 slot, added a sterling 4-for-5 effort featuring three doubles, two runs scored and five RBI.
“I was very tired,” explained the 6-year-old Deason. “Before the game coach told us we had to win to go to states. He said if we didn’t win that was OK, too. Spring Hill was really tough today.”
Shea concluded the day 4-for-5, highlighted by a double and four runs knocked in.
“Both of Waylon’s homers were very cool,” said the 6-year-old Shea, who’ll turn 7 just prior to the state championship. “Spring Hill is a really tough team. We weren’t scoring much early, but we hit when needed.”
Russ Lovett and William Andrews each rapped three safeties for the victors in five trips and each plated four runs.
Despite Spring Hill’s third straight loss, the Hernando County club went down swinging scoring five runs on four hits in the bottom of the seventh.
The loss spoiled Joey Reif’s sensational 5-for-5 effort featuring four runs scored and a game-high six RBI. Reif tripled twice and doubled once to pace Spring Hill’s 28-hit attack.
Ryan Engley and Chase Lawson each added 4-for-5 efforts and combined for seven runs scored and five runs knocked in.
Additionally, Ryan Roach and Logan Bruce each rapped three hits.
Wesley Chapel (5-1) snapped Wildwood’s two-year grip as District 6 champion via a hard-earned 12-8 championship win Saturday evening.
The district crown was Wesley Chapel’s fifth in this age group dating back seven seasons.
Wildwood (4-2) forced a winner-take-all title game thanks to 17-14 upset over previously unbeaten Wesley Chapel Saturday afternoon.
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The winning skipper McNeal appeared more relieved than anything else afterward.
“I was about to pass out,” declared McNeal. “My blood pressure was up. After the fourth inning, we finally started rolling.
“It’s been a long week, the kids are tired,” added McNeal. “After losing to Spring Hill last year, we’ve practiced since then in preparing for this game. We wanted it more than ever.”
Coach McNeal praised his defense, particularly his first sacker Waylon and third baseman Shea, saying, “There’s chemistry between them.”
On Waylon’s two bombs, “When your son hits two homers the day before Father’s Day, it brings tears to your eyes,” he confessed. “Yeah, you can say he ate his Wheaties. He strives to be the best. He had to be because Spring Hill is so tough. We’ve looked forward to this game since they knocked us out last year.”
“It was great back-and-forth game,” said Coach Lawson. “As a coach it was nice to be a part of a terrific game. There was all kinds of action. It just seemed we’d score and they score. I thought whoever batted last would win it.
“We struggled offensively in our last two games (coming in) against two terrific teams,” described Coach Lawson. “For 12 first-timers (no returning All-Stars from 2013), I thought we played well. Give our kids credit; we battled a great Bushnell team. There wasn’t one time that I asked anyone to hustle today.”
On Reif’s terrific efforts, “We changed things around,” the coach said. “We moved him up in the lineup (third in the order) and he swung the bat.”
Retracing Spring Hill’s steps, the West Hernando County club opened the tourney with back-to-back wins.
On June 7, Spring Hill smashed San Antonio via the mercy rule in 4 1/2 innings, 29-8.
Jordan Lendo, Chase Lawson, Nolan Franklin, Roach, and Engley each collected rapped three hits apiece. Lawson, Franklin and Roach each chipped in two doubles.
Roach scored a game-high four runs while Engley and Lawson each plated three.
Game 2 on June 9 saw Spring Hill pound Brooksville in 5 1/2 innings, 28-16.
Defensively, third sacker Clayton Rodgers flashed the leather in the third inning catching a looper over his head and racing back to the bag to double up the runner.
At the plate, Lawson, Franklin, Engley and John Poissan each smacked four hits apiece.
Franklin whacked two doubles and tallied a game-high four runs while Lawson rapped two two-baggers and plated three runs. Engley and Poissan also combined to score six runs.
After back-to-back rainouts, Spring Hill suffered its first loss Thursday evening at the hands of eventual champion Wesley Chapel, 24-12.
The Hernando County nine stayed in the hunt behind its top six hitters. Lendo, Lawson, Franklin, Roach and Engley each finished 3-for-3. Lendo plated a team-high three runs.
The key to the game for Spring Hill was the lack of productivity with its 7-12 batters, who combined to hit 1-for-12 (.083).
On Friday, Wildwood walloped Spring Hill in four innings, 21-2. Roach and Franklin each went 1-for-2 and scored a run for the Spring Hill.
“There was a bit of a letdown after Thursday’s loss,” admitted Coach Lawson. “Wildwood just handed it to us. It seemed like every ball we hit they made a play on. They’ve got a terrific defense.”
Dixie T-Ball (ages 5-6) District 6 Tourney Recap
at Wildwood’s Millennium Park
Brooksville – bye
Wesley Chapel 34, Bushnell 12 (4.5 Innings)
Wildwood 24, South Lake 10 (4.5)
Spring Hill 29, San Antonio 8 (4.5 Innings)
San Antonio – bye
Wesley Chapel 17, Wildwood 13
Spring Hill 28, Brooksville 16 (5.5)
Bushnell 24, South Lake 13
Wesley Chapel 24, Spring Hill 12
Bushnell 30, San Antonio 9
Wildwood 24, Brooksville 10
Wesley Chapel 22, Bushnell 7
Wildwood 21, Spring Hill 2 (4)
Wildwood 17, Wesley Chapel 14
Bushnell 31, Spring Hill 28 (7)
Wesley Chapel 12, Wildwood 8
2014 Final District 6 T-Ball (ages 5-6) Tourney Standings
at Wildwood’s Millennium Park
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Wesley Chapel* 5 1 .833 123 69
2. Wildwood* 4 2 .667 107 65
3. Bushnell* 3 2 .600 104 91
4. Spring Hill 2 3 .400 97 100
5. Brooksville 0 2 .000 23 48
5. San Antonio 0 2 .000 17 59
5. South Lake 0 2 .000 23 48
TOTALS 14 14 .500
* Denotes qualified for July 5 T-Ball State Championship Tournament in Mulberry.