Friday, Oct 31, 2014

County teams pursue district dominance


Based on the results since the millennium, anyone could predict success for the three Hernando County teams involved in this weekend’s opening round of the 11-team Dixie Youth Baseball AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars District 6 Tournament in Sumter County.

Looking back, Hernando County reams have returned home with 11 of the last 13 championship trophies, including six of the past eight.

The field represents five counties including: Hernando, Pasco, Sumter, Lake and Marion.

The expected field in the week-long, double-elimination format features: Brooksville, Oak Griner, San Antonio, South Lake American, South Lake National, Spring Hill American, Spring Hill National, Wesley Chapel Blue, Wesley Chapel Navy, Wildwood and host Bushnell.

Spring Hill American is not only the defending District 6 champion, but also the defending state champion.

At the conclusion, the district champion and runner-up automatically advance to states July 12 in Arcadia. At the discretion of the state director, a third-place team may also advance to DeSoto County.

Since 2001, Spring Hill American has excelled in this age division capturing seven District 6 titles including: 2002-03, 2006-08, 2011 and 2013.

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SH American’s repeat chances are enhanced with 11 of 12 returning All-Stars from either AA Rookies (ages 7-8) or Minors action in 2013.

The team is comprised of catcher Owen Andress, outfielder/infielder Caden Bergantino, infielder/pitcher Talon Bergantino, infielder/pitcher Riley Cullum, outfielder/infielder/pitcher Quintin Hotop, infielder/pitcher Jacob Kelly, outfielder/catcher/pitcher Izzy LaRoche, infielder/pitcher Aiden Leskauskas, outfielder/infielder Salvatore LoDuca, outfielder/infielder Gavin McMurdo, infielder/outfielder/pitcher Jaxon Newhall and infielder/outfielder Sammy Sanchez.

Erik Andress will again guide the fortunes of SH American. Andress, whose team finished 13-3 (.813) in 2013, will again be assisted by Mike Bergantino and Mike Cullum.

The roster is bolstered with seven returning Minors All-Stars from last summer including Owen Andress, Talon Bergantino, Cullum, Hotop, Kelly, Leskauskas and Newhall, alongside four Rookies All-Stars: Caden Bergantino, LaRoche, McMurdo and Sanchez.

Coach Andress’ initial impressions of his team are that from top to bottom this team is deeper and more talented than last year’s squad.

In the arms race, Andress’ staff will lean on Kelly, Leskauskas, Hotop, Cullum and left-hander Caden Bergantino.

“I’m not sure if we have a dominating number one guy yet; someone will have to step up into that spot,” noted Coach Andress. “We could run 7-8 guys out there who could pitch. The point of emphasis has been since Day 1 to get ahead of the batters and miss low. If you locate your pitches high, those will get tagged.”

Another strength lies with the SH American defense. Andress expects his son, Owen, and LaRoche to split time behind the dish.

Look for Talon Bergantino and McMurdo to share time at first base with Kelly, while Sanchez and Newhall do the same at third base.

Leskauskas will man second base with the sure-handed Cullum at shortstop.

The outfield will be anchored by Hotop in center, LaRoche and Caden Bergantino in left, and a rotation of McMurdo, Sanchez and New York move-in LoDuca in right.

Defensively, Andress believes his unit’s versatility stands out with different players having the ability to fit in different spots without a major drop -off.

Offensively, SH American averaged 10.7 runs across 16 games last summer.

At the top of the expected lineup card are Cullen and Leskauskas followed by Talon Bergantino, Kelly and Sanchez.

Bergantino, who has “the fastest hands of anyone on the team through the (hitting) zone,” Kelly and Sanchez have all earned their spots, detailed Coach Andress.

“We can swing the bats,” described Andress. “I’d rather see us hit line drives, especially somewhere like Bushnell. Anybody can pull the ball, that’s like breathing. But allowing the ball to get deep and hitting the ball the other way is huge. Plus, I’m a big proponent of getting something from the bottom of the lineup.”

As far as tourney favorites, Andress focused on the other teams mentioning SH National, Wesley Chapel, Bushnell and South Lake. SH American opens with Brooksville Saturday at 9 a.m.

“Honestly, all I’m worried about is Brooksville,” he said. “We’re taking the same approach as last year; we can’t worry about this team or that team. We need to take it one game at a time.”

On the opening round’s significance, “It’s huge,” replied Andress. “To me, it’s the most important game because it sets the table for everything else. You win and you get much-needed momentum on your side.”

Andress will not ease up on his team’s expectations.

“My expectations are for this team to go full throttle and run out every groundball,” he detailed. “I’d like other coaches to think we’re one of the hardest-working teams out there.

“Sure, I’d be disappointed if we don’t make the district championship, but I’m not going to look ahead.”

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It’s been 13 summers since Tom Meier’s SH National club captured the District 6 crown in Bushnell.

Until Andress’ run, the county’s lone state title in this age group belonged to the 2005 SH National team that was guided by David Smith.

Last summer, SH National (2-2) finished in a tie for fifth.

This year’s team features: first baseman/outfielder Joey Carlson, third baseman/second baseman/catcher/pitcher Jaren Crawford, first baseman/third baseman/pitcher Christian Cooper, shortstop/catcher/pitcher Dylan Day, outfielder Ian Finnan, outfielder/catcher Kannin Fleming, catcher/third baseman/outfielder/pitcher Ethan Higgins, outfielder/second baseman Quinn Lenamon, shortstop/outfielder/pitcher Justin Leyden, catcher/first baseman/pitcher Layne Mathis, outfielder/catcher/second baseman/pitcher Gavin Meese and second baseman/catcher/outfielder Chris Moss.

First-year Chris Carlson will serve as head coach, assisted by Brian Finnan and Charlie Moss.

Carlson’s chances of excelling are enhanced behind seven returning All-Stars from last summer including: Crawford and Leyden (Minors), and Joey Carlson, Day, Fleming, Higgins and Mathis (Rookies).

At first glance, Coach Carlson believes his team has a lot of speed and possesses a never-say-die attitude.

On the mound, Coach Carlson will depend on his three top hurlers: Day, Crawford and Cooper. He described Day one of the top pitchers in this age group.

Defensively, look for Mathis and Higgins behind the plate with Cooper at first base and Crawford at third. Additionally, Carlson pencils in Moss at second base with the versatile Day at shortstop.

The fleet-footed Leyden will anchor center with Joey Carlson in right and Fleming in left field.

“The infield mostly came from my rec team,” explained Coach Carlson. “I’m confident with my kids, but the outfield is learning as they go.”

SH National’s batting order will be highlighted by Fleming and Leyden – who, according to Carlson, play with their hearts, are confident and aggressive.

National’s mashers are expected to feature Day, Crawford and left-handed hitting Cooper. Coach Carlson believes his first five batters are a good mix of contact hitters.

As far as tourney favorites, Coach Carlson didn’t waste a moment.

“There is no question in my mind that Spring Hill American will be there at end of the day,” insisted Carlson. “We didn’t scrimmage them, but our boys are friends with all their guys. The kids are aware of what we’re up against.

“I think Bushnell and Wesley Chapel will be right up there,” added Carlson. “Hopefully, we’re coming in under the radar. I have extreme confidence in my kids.”

SH National will open at 9 a.m. Saturday against San Antonio.

“To me, Saturday is a huge game,” remarked Coach Carlson. “You always want to start off well. There are always some nerves going on, too. That’s why it’s so important to get that first game out of the way.”

On the keys to success, “We can never turn the switch off,” declared Coach Carlson. “And no matter what happens, we’ve got to stick together.”

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The timing might be perfect for Brooksville. It’s been five seasons since it captured its last Minors district title under Bruce Price at Ridge Manor Community Park.

Price’s crown snapped a five-year drought dating back to 2004 under Gerald Johnson at Brooksville’s Ernie Wever Youth Park.

Last year, Brooksville finished 2-2 under Tony Carter.

The 2014 squad features: second baseman/third baseman/outfielder Ryan Amundsen, first baseman/catcher Isaiah Berry, third baseman/pitcher Josh Bourbeau, outfielder/second baseman Dalton Brinson, second baseman/catcher/outfielder Joey Currier, second baseman/shortstop/pitcher/outfielder Dominic Gatinella, outfielder Nick Lucas, third baseman/pitcher/outfielder Michael Savarese, catcher/first baseman Dylan Schatzel, center fielder/shortstop Gabe Tafelski, pitcher/outfielder Jacob Thompson and shortstop/pitcher Drew VanAlstine .

The Brooksville nine returns four All-Stars from last summer including: Tafelski (Minors), and Gatinella, Savarese and VanAlstine (Rookies).

Wes VanAlstine will serve as head coach assisted by Joe Brownell and Joey Parish.

VanAlstine arrives 1-4 lifetime. He finished 1-2 with the HYL T-Ball All-Stars in 2010 and 0-2 with the Rookies in 2012.

Painting broad strokes, VanAlstine believes he has a good group contact hitters, who without a doubt can play small ball, too.

Offensively, look for the quick Tafelski, Amundson and Drew VanAlstine near the top of his lineup card followed by a combination of Currier, Savarese and the left-handed hitting Berry.

Up the middle, Schatzel figures to start behind home plate, with Gatinella and Brinson splitting time at second base and Drew VanAlstine at shortstop.

Berry will anchor first base while third base has not been settled yet.

The outfield rotation is not set in stone with the exception of Tafelski in center.

“In our scrimmages, when it’s working, we’re not missing a beat defensively,” described Coach VanAlstine.

Looking at Brooksville’s hurlers, “It’s a solid staff and they’re capable of throwing strikes,” remarked VanAlstine, without identifying his possible aces. “Our point of emphasis is to take it one pitch at a time. Our guys have to forget the pitch before.”

Addressing the tourney favorites, Coach VanAlstine mentioned Bushnell, Wesley Chapel and Spring Hill.

Brooksville will open at 9 a.m. Saturday against stout SH American.

“Game 1 is very important; a win keeps you on the top side of the bracket,” said VanAlstine. “I’d rather play Spring Hill first than later.”

On the keys to success, “Solid pitching helps, but defense always wins games,” insisted Coach VanAlstine.

At a Glance

What – Dixie Youth Baseball AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars District 6 Tournament.

Who – Eleven teams in a double-elimination format featuring: Brooksville, Oak Griner, San Antonio, South Lake American, South Lake National, Spring Hill American, Spring Hill National, Wesley Chapel Blue, Wesley Chapel Navy, Wildwood and host Bushnell. Spring Hill American is the defending champion.

Where – Kenny Dixon Sports Complex, 824 W. Noble Ave., Bushnell.

When – Saturday through Friday (weather permitting).

At Stake – District champion and runner-up automatically advance to the State Championship July 12 in Arcadia. A third-place team may advance at the discretion of the state director.

2014 Hernando AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars


00 Isaiah Berry 1B/C

2 Drew VanAlstine* SS/P

4 Dalton Brinson OF/2B

5 Dylan Schatzel C/1B

6 Nick Lucas OF

21 Joey Currier 2B/C/OF

27 Michael Savarese* 3B/P/OF

32 Ryan Amundsen 2B/3B/OF

33 Dominic Gatinella* 2B/SS/P/OF

39 Josh Bourbeau 3B/P

66 Gabe Tafelski* CF/SS

99 Jacob Thompson P/OF

* Denotes returning AA Rookies or AAA Minors All-Star

Head Coach – Wes VanAlstine

Asst. Coach – Joe Brownell

Asst. Coach – Joey Parish

By the numbers: Hernando AAA Minors District 6 Results (2001-13)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2001A 1 2 .333 Tom Williams

2001N 1 2 .333 Tommy Ward

2002A 1 3 .250 John Maggard

2002N 1 2 .333 Gus Harrison

2003A 0 2 .000 John Maggard

2003N 2 3 .400 Gus Harrison

2004A$ 4 1 .800 Gerald Johnson

2004N 4 3 .571 Brent Young

2005A 3 3 .500 Gerald Johnson

2005N 2 3 .400 Ronnie Harvey

2006A 1 2 .333 John Frascatore

2006N 2 3 .400 Darren Niethammer

2007 2 2 .500 Kevin Kilbourne

2008 2 2 .500 Bruce Price

2009$ 6 0 1.000 Bruce Price

2010 2 2 .500 Mike Peters

2011 2 2 .500 Mike Peters

2012 0 2 .000 Steve Piermatteo

2013 2 2 .000 Tony Carter

TOTALS 38 41 .481 –14–

$ Denotes District 6 Champion

A – Denotes Hernando American

N – Denotes Hernando National

2014 Spring Hill American AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars


1 Sammy Sanchez* INF/OF

2 Izzy LaRoche* OF/C/P

3 Riley Cullum* INF/P

4 Owen Andress* C

6 Jaxon Newhall * INF/OF/P

7 Salvatore LoDuca OF/INF

8 Talon Bergantino* INF/P

9 Quintin Hotop* OF/INF/P

11 Jacob Kelly* INF/P

13 Caden Bergantino* OF/INF

21 Gavin McMurdo* OF/INF

34 Aiden Leskauskas* INF/P

* Denotes returning AA Rookies or AAA Minors All-Star

Head Coach – Erik Andress

Asst. Coach – Mike Bergantino

Asst. Coach – Mike Cullum

By the numbers: Spring Hill American AAA Minors District 6 Results (2001-13)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2001 2 2 .500 Mike Adams

2002$ 7 0 1.000 Bobby Pasarela

2003$ 7 0 1.000 Ed Bunnell

2004 3 2 .600 Mike Sollazzo

2005 1 2 .333 Jason Stevens

2006$ 8 1 .889 Jim Keith

2007$ 5 1 .833 Vito Tambasco

2008$ 6 1 .857 Al Sorrentino

2009 1 2 .333 Roger Gates

2010 1 2 .333 Al Blevens

2011$ 5 0 1.000 Joe Abbadessa

2012 4 2 .667 Joe Abbadessa

2013$ 5 1 .833 Erik Andress

TOTALS 55 16 .775 –12–

$ Denotes District 6 Champion

2014 Spring Hill National AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars


1 Justin Leyden* SS/OF/P

2 Gavin Meese OF/C/2B/P

3 Chris Moss 2B/C/OF

8 Dylan Day* SS/C/P

9 Ian Finnan OF

11 Ethan Higgins* C/3B/OF/P

14 Christian Cooper 1B/3B/P

22 Quinn Lenamon OF/2B

23 Layne Mathis* C/1B/P

42 Jaren Crawford* 3B/2B/C/P

77 Joey Carlson* 1B/OF

99 Kannin Fleming* OF/C

* Denotes returning AA Rookies or AAA Minors All-Star

Head Coach – Chris Carlson

Asst. Coach – Brian Finnan

Asst. Coach – Charles Moss

By the numbers: Spring Hill National AAA Minors District 6 Results (2001-13)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2001$ 7 1 .875 Tom Meier

2002 2 3 .400 Jon Shellabarger

2003 2 3 .400 Jon Shellabarger

2004 5 1 .833 Robert Miller

2005$$ 4 3 .571 David Smith

2006 1 2 .333 Billy Beetz

2007 2 2 .500 Rich Gomez

2008 3 2 .600 John Hrobuchak

2009 4 2 .667 Shawn Laferty

2010 3 2 .600 Frank Frangione

2011 3 2 .600 Sean Fitzgerald

2012 3 2 .600 Sean Fitzgerald

2013 2 2 .500 Jay Trepen

TOTALS 41 27 .603 –11–

$ Denotes District 6 Champion

$$ Denotes Florida State Champion


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