Four Hernando County All-Star teams – Spring Hill and Brooksville’s Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) and Majors (ages 17-19) – will collide in two weekend Dixie Baseball State Championship Tournaments on tap this weekend in Polk County.
Both double-elimination events will take place at Tenoroc High in Lakeland.
The most intrigue surrounds the tiny, three-team Majors tournament featuring a virtual unknown squad calling itself “Say Baseball,” along with Hernando County and Spring Hill.
Both Spring Hill and the Brooksville-based Hernando County nines seek to make history. No Brooksville squad has captured states in this division since 2000 at Avon Park under veteran Hernando High head coach Tim Sims.
For Spring Hill, none of its 10 career state crowns have arrived courtesy of a Majors team.
Hernando County will open play at 7:45 p.m. Saturday against Say Baseball.
In Round 2, Hernando County will square off against Spring Hill at 1 p.m. Sunday – rekindling the old coaching rivalry between Sims against former Springstead mentor Frank Vitale.
Despite continuing to teach at SHS, Vitale recently accepted the head baseball position at Nature Coast Technical.
The Hernando Majors All-Stars include: infielder Tanner Bammert, catcher/outfielder Colby Brown, pitcher/first baseman David Flowers, pitcher/infielder Robby Frantzis, pitcher/infielder Trenton Gannt, pitcher/infielder Kyle Kilbourne, pitcher/outfielder Brandon Lawson, outfielder Tyler Ledington, infielder/pitcher Bradley Platt, third baseman/catcher Brooks Timmons, catcher/first baseman Austin Treverton, pitcher/infielder Brooks Wilson and outfielder/pitcher Justin Young
Sims returns as skipper assisted by Jeff Laing, Lee Sullivan and Harry Timmons.
This year’s squad is highlighted by 10 returning All-Stars: Bammert, Flowers, Kilbourne, Ledington, Platt, Treverton and Young (all Pre-Majors), and Frantzis, Lawson and Brooks Timmons (Majors).
Coach Sims has been impressed with the continued work ethic of collegiate players Brooks Timmons and Lawson. The duo returned to Brooksville this summer to improve their games.
In a general sense, Sims describes this team as a group of good guys that are fun to be around. He especially appreciates how they go about their business. As a whole, Sims believes this team’s strength is its mental fortitude.
Sims is disappointed that’s he’s heading into a tourney with three teams. Just the same, he embraces the opportunity to face Vitale.
“This is summer baseball. The team with the best chemistry will win,” insisted Sims. “It’ll be fun playing in a different ballpark. The best thing is working with kids and having a chance to coach against Coach Vitale. It should be a blast.”
Monday’s state champion will represent Florida in the World Series July 26-30 in Ozark, Alabama.
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Spring Hill’s Majors All-Stars include: infielder/outfielder Gabe Abbadessa, outfielder Kyle Cotilletta, infielder Scott Dwyer, outfielder Blake Laferty, pitcher/infielder Chris Lake, pitcher/outfielder Mike Merrill, pitcher/infielder Ryan Nicoll, pitcher/infielder/outfielder Wilfred Pagan, pitcher/infielder Nic Pasarela, catcher/infielder John Peloro, infielder/catcher Danny Schonborn, pitcher/infielder Kyle Stein, pitcher/infielder/outfielder Vito Tambasco Jr. and catcher/infielder Trent Wyzykowski.
Vitale, who captured a state title with the Spring Hill Pre-Majors in 2010 in Winter Haven, will be assisted by Vito Tambasco Sr. and J.R. Wright.
Vitale’s title hopes are enhanced with nine returning All-Stars including: Abbadessa, Laferty, Merrill, Pagan, Pasarela, Schonborn, Vito Tambasco Jr. and Wyzykowski (Majors), and Stein (15-U).
At first glance, Vitale believes his hurlers are strong with Tambasco, Nicoll, Pagan and Pasarela, who each have quality arms. Yet, he believes with Lawson and Kilbourne that Hernando has the overall edge on the bump.
One of Vitale’s greatest concerns revolves around Pasarela, Nicoll and Wyzykowski, who all did not play ball last year.
“When we started practicing the rust showed on those guys,” identified Coach Vitale. “They’re slowly regaining their skill sets. That’s really important especially against the better pitching I’m expecting to see.”
Offensively, after 11 scrimmage games, Vitale’s lineup card is highlighted by Vito Tambasco Jr. and the left-handed hitting Cotilletta followed by Nicoll, Lake and Peloro.
With a bye on Saturday, Spring Hill faces a daunting task of playing a twin bill Sunday afternoon against Hernando County followed by a clash against Say Baseball.
“Game 1 will be big,” detailed Vitale. “In the past I’ve known a little bit about the teams we were going to see. We don’t know a lick about Say Baseball. I’m definitely going to see them Saturday night against Hernando.”
One major concern besides not knowing anything about Say Baseball is not going over in detail the communication side of his defense.
“That’s something we’ve got to square away quickly,” stressed Vitale.
On the keys to success, “Like every baseball tournament,” pointed out Vitale, “we have to have strong pitching, we’ve got to take care of the baseball and we need some timely hitting.
“I don’t like the prospects of playing a doubleheader in that Sunday heat, but we’ll see what the weather throws at us.”
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A six-team bracket in the Pre-Majors field includes: East Polk County, Hernando County, Okeechobee, Polk County, Spring Hill and Zephyrhills. East Polk is the defending state champs.
Spring Hill is attempting to capture its first state title in this division since Vitale’s club turned the trick in 2010 in Winter Haven.
Spring Hill’s All-Stars include: shortstop/pitcher Stephen Bienstock, pitcher/outfielder/first baseman Robert Bunyon, catcher/outfielder Justin Chevalier, outfielder Brian Collins, catcher/outfielder/pitcher Joey Delgatto, second baseman/outfielder Joe Harris, catcher/infielder/outfielder Luke Laferty, pitcher/outfielder Brett Maharaj, third baseman/pitcher Jeff Misener, pitcher/outfielder/infielder Matthew Myers, first baseman/pitcher Hunter Rhineberger, pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Zach Rosario and third baseman/pitcher Brenden Sessa
Spring Hill will be guided by Shawn Laferty. Laferty, who is seeking his county-record tying fourth state title, will be assisted Don Bunyon and Stephen Delgatto.
Spring Hill’s roster is punctuated with nine returning All-Stars from 2013 including: Bienstock, Bunyon, Chevalier, Luke Laferty, Maharaj, Misener, Myers and Rhineberger (15-U), and Delgatto (Junior Boys).
Prior to his eighth state tourney, Laferty admits that his squad has been limited by Mother Nature.
In preparing for Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. opener against Okeechobee, Laferty has gone over every facet of the game, especially stressing to his pitchers to hit their spots and concentrate on throwing strikes.
“We’ve got some ‘A-minus’ arms, but no showstoppers,” admitted Laferty, who earlier this summer guided the Spring Hill “B” team to a 15-U second-place state finish in Bartow.
“At this point, Myers is our top guy and Rhineberger is a close second,” described Laferty. “Hunter is 6-foot-4 and is a really intimidating guy. After that, we’ve got arms that can do the job.”
Defensively, look for Spring Hill to utilize as many as three catchers during the event.
“I know we have more speed than we’ve had in the past, but we haven’t been tested,” cautioned Laferty.
At the plate, Spring Hill believes it can keep the games close behind an offense geared behind Misener, Rhineberger, the vastly improving Harris, Bienstock and Luke Laferty.
As far as the teams to beat, Laferty deferred his choice, saying, “Okeechobee comes in as a complete unknown. And I’d pick either of the Polk County teams first and then Hernando.”
According to Laferty, capturing Game 1 would go a long way toward solving this weekend’s tournament.
“Going in, we haven’t done as much together as I would have liked,” he said. “That said these guys know how to win because they’ve done it before.”
Monday night’s state champion will represent Florida in the World Series set for Chipley on July 26-30.
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Brooksville’s Pre-Majors will carry an 18-member roster to Tenoroc including: infielder Morgan Ashton, first baseman/utility Gabe Bonilla, pitcher/utility Kyle Bonak, infielder Andres Cabrera, pitcher/utility Brad Ellis, outfielder Logan Flood, pitcher/utility Pierce Kimbrough, catcher/outfielder Tyson Libengood, pitcher Daniel Miller, catcher Owen Morgan, pitcher/infielder Cameron Price, pitcher/infielder Elijah Ramirez, pitcher Dustin Ratliff, pitcher/infielder Travis Ritter, outfielder Garrett Sims, outfielder Tyler Skipper, outfielder Devon Thomas and pitcher/utility Trevor Vendrone
Veteran Hernando High assistant coach Jeff Laing will be at the helm assisted by Sims, Matt Blanton and Jason Dunn.
All 18 of the Brooksville players are returning All-Stars from either the Senior Boys (age 14), U-15, Pre-Majors or Majors divisions last summer.
Brooksville’s Pre-Majors are competing for their first state title since 2005 under Sims.
“This is a great tournament to help prepare our kids for next season,” insisted Coach Laing. “It’s a perfect setting to build the foundation of chemistry for the future.”
Hernando County opens at 8:30 a.m. Saturday against the defending champs from East Polk County.
“Our kids are homegrown while the two Polk County teams have kids from all over. We’re on different sides of the spectrum dealing with next year,” pointed out Coach Laing. “Our goal in Lakeland is the same goal we’ve had all summer – to prepare our guys for high school ball next year.”
Laing believes his team’s strength lies with its depth on the hill.
“We don’t have outstanding or overwhelming pitching, but Ellis, Ramirez, Ratliff and Kimbrough are good guys that can throw strikes and keep us in a ball game,” Laing said.
One possibly troubling question is the offense.
“Besides Ellis and Cabrera we need some big efforts at the plate from Morgan, Bonilla and (Garrett) Sims,” insisted Coach Laing.
At a Glance
What – Dixie Baseball Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) and Majors (ages 17-19) All-Stars State Tournaments
Who – Three Majors teams in a double-elimination format featuring: Hernando County, Spring Hill and Say Baseball. Six Pre-Majors teams in a double-elimination format featuring: East Polk, Hernando County, Okeechobee, Polk County, Spring Hill and Zephyrhills.
Where – Tenoroc High School, 4905 Saddlecreek Road, Lakeland.
When – Saturday through Monday (weather permitting).
At Stake – Majors state champion represents Florida in World Series July 26-30 in Ozark, Alabama. Pre-Majors state champion represents Florida in World Series July 26-30 in Chipley.
Hernando Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) All-Stars
NO. NAME POSITION(S)
1 Owen Morgan* C
2 Tyler Skipper* OF
5 Kyle Bonak* P/UTIL
7 Elijah Ramirez* P/INF
10 Cameron Price * P/INF
15 Trevor Vendrone* P/UTIL
16 Devon Thomas* OF
17 Travis Ritter* P/INF
22 Logan Flood* OF
23 Morgan Ashton* INF
33 Andres Cabrera* 1NF
34 Garrett Sims* OF
35 Brad Ellis* P/UTIL
38 Tyson Libengood* C/OF
41 Dustin Ratliff * P
48 Gabe Bonilla* 1B/UTIL
50 Pierce Kimbrough* P/UTIL
54 Daniel Miller* P
* Denotes returning Senior Boys, Pre-Majors, Majors All-Star
Head Coach – Jeff Laing
Assistant Coach – Tim Sims
Assistant Coach – Matt Blanton
Assistant Coach – Jason Dunn
Spring Hill Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) All-Stars
NO. NAME POSITION(S)
1 Stephen Bienstock* SS/P
3 Luke Laferty* C/INF/OF
5 Joey Delgatto* C/OF/P
6 Justin Chevalier* C/OF
7 Brenden Sessa 3B/P
8 Brett Maharaj* P/OF
10 Joe Harris 2B/OF
13 Robert Bunyon* P/OF/1B
23 Brian Collins OF
24 Matthew Myers* P/OF/INF
80 Hunter Rhineberger* 1B/P
81 Zach Rosario P/1B/OF
82 Jeff Misener* 3B/P
* Denotes returning Junior Boys, Senior Boys All-Star
Head Coach – Shawn Laferty
Assistant Coach – Don Bunyon
Assistant Coach – Stephen Delgatto
Hernando Majors (ages 17-19) All-Stars
NO. NAME POSITION(S)
12 Bradley Platt* INF/P
13 Justin Young OF/P
18 Austin Treverton* C/1B
20 Tyler Ledington* OF
28 Brooks Timmons* 3B/C
29 Kyle Kilbourne* P/INF
42 Tanner Bammert* INF
43 Robby Frantzis* P/INF
45 David Flowers* P/1B
55 Brandon Lawson* P/OF
57 Colby Brown C/OF
58 Brooks Wilson P/INF
47 Trenton Gannt P/INF
* Denotes returning Pre-Majors, Majors All-Star
Head Coach – Tim Sims
Assistant Coach – Jeff Laing
Assistant Coach – Harry Timmons
Assistant Coach – Lee Sullivan
Spring Hill Majors (ages 17-19) All-Stars
NO. NAME POSITION(S)
1 Wilfred Pagan* P/INF/OF
4 Kyle Cotilletta OF
7 Gabe Abbadessa* INF/OF
11 Danny Schonborn* INF/C
13 Nic Pasarela* P/INF
14 Blake Laferty* OF
19 Mike Merrill* P/OF
20 Kyle Stein* P/INF
24 Trent Wyzykowski* C/INF
26 Scott Dwyer INF
28 Vito Tambasco Jr.* P/INF/OF
34 Ryan Nicoll P/INF
35 John Peloro C/INF
45 Chris Lake P/INF
* Denotes returning 15-U, Majors All-Star
Head Coach – Frank Vitale
Assistant Coach – Vito Tambasco Sr.
Assistant Coach – J.R. Wright