ZEPHYRHILLS – In an election year, look for Hernando third sacker Brendan Litwinsky to run for mayor of Brooksville.
And why not? Based on his last at-bat Wednesday evening against Central right-handed reliever Dante Hamilton, he may easily be elected and given a key to the city.
The top-seeded Leopards were mired in 1-all deadlock after six innings thanks to a gutsy starting performance by Bear junior southpaw Thomas Sorrentino.
The crafty lefty Sorrentino spun a three-hitter working both sides of the plate and changing speeds to keep the Leopard bats chained.
Sorrentino, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, didn’t fuss after being replaced on the hill by Hamilton after 74 pitches and six solid innings of work in the first of two Class 5A, District 7 Tournament semifinal games at Zephyrhills High.
Hamilton retired the first batter he faced, senior Tyler Allen, looking at a called third strike – the Leopards’ seventh strikeout victim of the game.
On a subsequent 2-0 count, Litwinsky launched a shot over the left-field fence – his second homer of the season – lifting the Purple and Gold over Central, 2-1.
With the win, HHS (22-4) advanced to Friday night’s 7 p.m. title tilt against sixth-seeded Pasco.
The Pirates upset the second-seeded Wesley Chapel Wildcats in the second 5A-7 semifinal, 8-1.
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There were several Hernando standouts.
“I was looking for a pitch down the middle and that’s exactly what I got – a fastball down the middle,” recalled the 17-year-old Litwinsky. “I hit it on a line and I just said, ‘Please, please go over.’”
Before Litwinsky’s last swing he praised Sorrentino’s efforts, saying, “He just shut us down.”
Central (17-10) snapped a scoreless deadlock on an odd double play in the third frame.
With one out, junior Zach Sorrentino singled up the middle before senior catcher Hank Shiver, who came in hitting .149, laced a double down the third-base line.
Leadoff batter C.J. Martinez grounded to first sacker Andres Cabrera, who looked at the runner at third before stepping on the bag.
In an instant, Shiver darted between second and third as Cabrera whistled a relay throw to shortstop Tanner Bammert.
As Bammert had Shiver hung up between second and third, Zach Sorrentino raced to the plate without drawing a throw.
Though Bammert tagged out Shiver, Sorrentino had already crossed the plate on the odd twin killing.
With one out in the bottom of the third, junior Tyler Ledington legged out a gorgeous bunt single up the first-base line.
Thomas Sorrentino was called for a balk, allowing Ledington to advance to second.
With two outs, senior Austin Treverton crushed an RBI double to right-center, 1-1.
That’s the way it stood until Litwinsky’s heroics.
Like Litwinsky, Treverton tipped his cap toward Central’s Thomas Sorrentino and his Hernando counterpart, senior right-hander Kyle Kilbourne.
Kilbourne (9-1), who suffered a 10-1 spanking last week at Bushnell against South Sumter, went the distance scattering three hits and no walks against five strikeouts.
“He (Sorrentino) did a great job, but Kyle did a great job, too, of locating his pitches and pitching to contact,” detailed the 18-year-old Treverton.
There was no doubt on the play of the game.
“Brendan’s bomb was awesome,” said Treverton. “This (win) was big because it puts us in the finals and advances us into regionals.”
Kilbourne was the benefactor of a Leopard defense that converted all 29 of its chances.
HHS batters, however, struggled at the plate batting 4-for-24 (.167 batting average) against Bear pitching.
“Today both teams competed,” explained the 17-year-old Kilbourne. “We were fortunate to bat last and score. This is huge because now we’re in the finals.”
Veteran Leopard skipper Tim Sims praised both teams’ efforts.
“(Thomas) Sorrentino did an outstanding job hitting the sweet spots along the plate. He made every pitch,” insisted Sims. “I thought the double play was the key play. Had we thrown it home maybe we throw that ball away.
“Even though Central scored, I really felt like one run wasn’t going to be enough. Yeah, I thought we’d score at least once,” he added.
On Litwinsky’s heroics, “Brendan is a program player,” explained Sims. “He comes to practice every day and does what he’s supposed to without any problems. There are never too many highs or lows with him – he’s always accountable.
“When he hit the homer, it just tells you nice guys can finish first,” added Sims. “He’s certainly one of those kids that gets the most out of his abilities.”
On Kilbourne’s mound efforts, “After the Easter massacre at Bushnell, you didn’t see a trace of that game today,” detailed Sims. “Kyle’s a grinder and he competes every time he’s out there. He gives you supreme effort.”
The loss – the Bears’ third in three meetings this season against HHS – closed the books on Central’s fourth season under hard-luck skipper Al Sorrentino.
“I know he’s my kid, but credit belongs to Thomas (Sorrentino),” stressed his father. “He had a great game. He hadn’t pitched a bullpen in 10 days. He didn’t have the strength to throw 98 pitches, so his arm strength was low.”
Rewinding Litwinsky’s walk-off, “We called for a fastball away and he missed,” lamented Sorrentino. “It happens in baseball all the time. Give the kid credit for knocking it over the fence.”
“You’ve also got to give credit their pitcher,” he added. “He hit his spots the entire game.”
Coach Sorrentino was saddened with the final score, but hopes his team’s resolve will stiffen in the future.
“On what I take away from this game?” he said. “That we knew coming in we had very little margin of error. I think we made two mistakes – one resulted in the Treverton double and then the homer – that’s it.
“No disrespect toward Pasco or Wesley Chapel, but I think the two best teams in this district just played and unfortunately, we lost.”
Hernando 2, Central 1 (6½ Innings)
123 456 7 R H E
CEN 001 000 0 – 1 3 2
HER 001 000 1 – 2 4 0
CEN – T. Sorrentino, Hamilton (7) and Shiver.
HER – Kilbourne and Treverton.
W – Kilbourne (9-1). L – Hamilton (3-2).
2B – CEN: Shiver; HER: Treverton.
HR – HER: Litwinsky.
Records – Central (17-10), Hernando (22-4).
Class 5A, District 7 Baseball Tournament
Central 2, Nature Coast 0
Wesley Chapel 10, Weeki Wachee 2
Pasco 8, Zephyrhills 4
Hernando 2, Central 1
Pasco 8, Wesley Chapel 1
Pasco vs. Hernando, 7 p.m.