Instantly, Tim Sims turned the attention away from himself.
Not that anyone would expect a celebratory self pat on the back. That’s hardly the style that led him to this point.
But if the 18-year Hernando head coach wanted to soak in the moment, he had certainly earned the right.
For over 40 years, Brooksville legend Tom Varn had stood alone in the county baseball 300-win club. As of Thursday night, he finally has company.
Christian Arroyo’s solo blast and a two-hit shutout by Eloy Ramirez led the Leopards to a 1-0 victory at Central, and the 300th win of Sims’ coaching career.
“Players win,” Sims said. “It’s all about the players. It’s has been since Game 1.”
As Sims thought back to his first season, 1994, he couldn’t quite remember that first victory, or at least the opponent.
But the man who has guided the Leopards (10-2) to five Elite Eight appearances and one Final Four while compiling a 300-207 mark at his alma mater could recall his former physical education coach in junior high, Varn, among other mentors.
“I was thinking about teaching kids the right way to play the game of baseball,” Sims said of his thoughts when he first took the head coaching gig. “You’ve got to respect yourself and you’ve got to respect others, and that’s what we’ve tried to continue.
“There have been a lot of coaches along the way. My dad taught me how to deal with people. Coach (Ernie) Chatman taught me how to manage the game, compete within yourself. Chuck Alderman taught me how to be humble. This is for all those guys.”
Hernando’s Eloy Ramirez and Central (6-7) southpaw Trevor McKenna locked up in a pitcher’s duel for the first five innings.
Ramirez, a senior, served notice that the Leopards have pitching depth beyond college-bound Brandon Lawson and Trae Ratliff. The tall right-hander twirled a two-hit shutout for his second win of the season, walking two and striking out nine.
“My curveball was working good, my fastball,” Ramirez said. “And I had good command.”
“Eloy Ramirez threw one heck of a game,” Sims said. “First-pitch strikes and he challenged them. That’s it in a nutshell.”
McKenna was equal to the task, limiting Hernando to a Ratliff single in the second inning and a pair of walks. He also struck out six.
However, he did not come out for the sixth, having reached his pitch limit as the Bears prepare for a spring break tournament in Dunedin next week.
With one out, Arroyo smashed a ball over the fence in left-center, his second deep fly of the night and fourth homer of the year. He had flown out to center to lead off the game.
“The biggest thing was I stayed back,” said the senior shortstop signed to play for the University of Florida. “I was talking about it with (assistant) Coach (Donnie) Whitehead and Coach (Buddy) Keegan, keeping a level barrel plane, stay back and see the pitch.
“At first I was a little anxious. I got the pitch and turned on it. I got a good pitch to hit and got a good swing on it.”
That would be the last hit by either side, as Ramirez finished things off over the next two frames.
Hernando then turned its attention to a pivotal Class 5A, District 7 battle for first place, Friday’s home game against Eustis.
“We’re still trying to find our identity,” Sims said. “We’re still very much trying to find the right team chemistry. And we’ll continue that quest (against Eustis).
“We had guys playing out of position, but we still made plays,” Sorrentino said. “We battled. We just didn’t do much offensively.
“These are young hitters. They still haven’t figured out what to do to put the ball in play. We didn’t make many adjustments tonight.”
Sorrentino offered a proverbial tip of the cap to his Hernando counterpart.
“Tim and I get along,” Sorrentino said. “I think he’s a stand-up guy. If he’s got to get 300 wins against me, I don’t have a problem with it. I congratulate him on that. He’s deserving of all the accolades he gets.”
Both Ramirez and Arroyo said they were unaware of what Sims was about to accomplish beforehand.
“He’s a phenomenal coach,” Arroyo said. “He deserves it. He’s the man. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and I’m happy to get this ‘W’ for him.”
Hernando 1, Central 0