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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Persistence pays off for Brooksville Majors

Hernando Today correspondent


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If the church bells were heard ringing loudly Thursday at the First Baptist Church in Brooksville, there was plenty of reason.

Brooksville’s futility in Dixie Baseball at the state level concluded with a huge shocker in Polk County.

The tiny three-team Majors All-Stars (ages 17-19) Tournament finished at the City of Lakeland’s Lake Bonny Park with Brooksville’s Hernando County nine upsetting Say Baseball on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning, 4-3.

Brooksville skipper Tim Sims’ club had opened the excruciatingly long six-day event at its original site of Lakeland’s Tenoroc High by losing to Say Baseball on July 12, 7-3.

On Sunday, Hernando County – comprised mostly of Hernando High varsity players, a sprinkling of Lakeland kids and one Sumter County product – bounced back to edge archrival Spring Hill, 3-2.

But Coach Frank Vitale’s Spring Hill squad wasn’t done. The West Hernando County crew staved off elimination in the second game of its Sunday twin bill by tripping up Say Baseball in nine innings, 2-0.

With three teams tied with one loss, Say Baseball drew the bye. In Monday morning’s elimination game, Hernando County sent Spring Hill (1-2 overall) packing, 8-6.

Mother Nature washed out Monday night’s expected state finale.

Besides the torrential showers, neither Hernando County nor Say Baseball officials could agree on when to settle the issue until Thursday afternoon when Sims’ club prevailed.

The victory was monumental. Consider that no Brooksville-based Majors team had captured states since 2000’s title – also under Coach Sims, Hernando High’s headman.

Since 2000, Brooksville Majors teams at states had posted a less than impressive 15-28 (35 percent) overall slate.

Until Thursday’s upset, no Brooksville-based Dixie Baseball All-Star team had hoisted a state championship banner since Sims’ Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) club claimed a state title in Chipley in 2005.

Perhaps just as crucial, Hernando Youth League’s Brooksville program was 0-for-34 at states since last winning in Washington County.

Behind HYL-Brooksville’s 10th state crown in 55 seasons, Sims claimed his sixth career Dixie state crown.

Most importantly, Hernando County will represent Florida in the 12-team World Series July 26-30 in Ozark, Ala.

Coach Sims was not available for comment. Immediately after beating Say Baseball, his team traveled to Fort Myers for this weekend’s non-Dixie Perfect Game Tournament.

Despite a 1-2 stay in Polk County, Coach Vitale was not disappointed, just the opposite.

“Honestly, we could have won all three games we played,” detailed Vitale, who was hired a few weeks ago as head coach at Nature Coast Technical. “Chris Lake had a no-hitter through four innings against Hernando in the first game. We were ahead 2-1 before a seeing-eye single put them up.

“In every inning we had guys in scoring position except the first. We just couldn’t get that clutch two-out hit.”

Describing his return to diamond, “It was just great to be back,” insisted Vitale, who was suspended late in the 2012 season as Springstead head coach and not retained afterward. “It’s the first time in 2½ years since I got the (coaching) juices going. It was fun to compete against Tim (Sims) twice.”

The team’s biggest lessons revolved around Dixie’s strict pitching restrictions.

“With Dixie’s current pitching restrictions, we didn’t have enough pitchers for this kind of a tournament,” noted Vitale. “I can’t complain about the efforts of (Nic) Pasarela, Lake, Ryan Nicoll and (Vito) Tambasco gave us on the hill; they all performed well. Dealing with the pitch count is much tougher than counting innings pitched.”

❖ ❖ ❖

The six-team Pre-Majors All-Stars Tournament concluded Monday via a five-game sweep by East Polk County over rival Polk County, 11-1.

East Polk County, which outscored its opponents, 49-16, collected its second straight state crown and will represent Florida in the 12-team World Series July 26-30 at Chipley.

Short-handed Spring Hill finished 1-2. Late Saturday night, the West Hernando County crew rallied past Okeechobee, 10-8.

On Sunday, the pitching-rich East Polk County crew spanked Spring Hill, 10-3, before Polk County showed Spring Hill the door, 8-1.

“I thought our kids did a good job,” explained Spring Hill head coach Shawn Laferty, who was seeking his fourth state crown. “We dug an early hole in Game 1, but came back and won.

“In the second game, we faced two East Polk kids that threw darts. They were throwing in the 80s,” described Laferty. “And in the last game we had a few bobbles and were hurt by 2-3 close calls that we thought should have gone the other way.

“At the end of the day, we tip our cap to East Polk, they were by far the best team in the field,” added Laferty. “Even though we didn’t win, it was a great experience for our kids to see that type of pitching. This will certainly help our guys prepare for the varsity level next year.”

The Brooksville-based Pre-Majors quietly exited after a 0-2 stay.

Skipper Jeff Laing’s crew had the misfortune of opening against East Polk County, losing 13-3, before dropping its second game to Okeechobee, 4-3.

“I think we got out of it what we wanted,” detailed Laing, “We took a large roster (18 players) and it was another step in our evaluation process on who’ll be contending for the (Hernando) varsity team in the spring and who’ll be remaining on the junior varsity squad, too.”

In summing up the experience, “We faced good competition,” insisted Laing. “Reality-wise, it’s great to face teams like that. East Polk drew from eight schools, we drew kids from one.

“Even by playing that type of competition, the kids can self-evaluate until the varsity season rolls around again. Some of those same kids are back at it this weekend in the Fort Myers tournament.”

2014 Dixie Baseball Majors (ages 17-19) All-Stars State Tournament


at Lakeland’s Tenoroc High School


Say Baseball 7, Hernando County 3


Hernando County 3, Spring Hill 2

Spring Hill 2, Say Baseball 0 (9 Innings)


Hernando County 8, Spring Hill 6


Rained out


Rained out


(Championship at Lakeland’s Lake Bonny Park)

Hernando County 4, Say Baseball 3 (8)

2014 Final Majors (ages 17-19) All-Stars State Tournament Standings

at Lakeland’s Tenoroc High School.

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


1. Hernando County 3 1 .750 18 18

2. Say Baseball 1 2 .333 10 7

3. Spring Hill 1 2 .333 10 11

TOTALS (3) 5 5 .500

* Denotes represents Florida in the July 26-30 Majors World Series at Ozark, Ala.

2014 Dixie Baseball Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) All-Stars State Tournament Recap

at Lakeland’s Tenoroc High School


East Polk County 13, Hernando County 3

Spring Hill 10, Okeechobee 8

Polk County 7, Zephyrhills 5

Okeechobee 4, Hernando County 3

East Polk County 10, Spring Hill 3


Okeechobee 9, Zephyrhills 6

East Polk County 8, Polk County 3

Polk County 8, Spring Hill 1

East Polk County 7, Okeechobee 6



East Polk County 11, Polk County 1

2014 Final Dixie Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) All-Stars State Tournament Standings

at Lakeland’s Tenoroc High School.

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


1. East Polk County* 5 0 1.000 49 16

2. Polk County 2 2 .500 19 25

3. Okeechobee 2 2 .333 23 24

4. Spring Hill 1 2 .333 14 26

5. Zephyrhills 0 2 .000 11 16

6. Hernando County 0 2 .000 6 17

TOTALS (6) 10 10 .500

* Denotes represents Florida in the July 26-30 Pre-Majors World Series at Chipley.

All-Time Hernando County Dixie Baseball State Champions (1959-13/55 Seasons)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


1981 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 5 1 .833 Ernie Chatman

1982 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 5 1 .833 Ernie Chatman

1982 Brooksville Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 5 1 .833 Chuck Alderman

1983 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 6 0 1.000 Ernie Chatman

1993 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 4 1 .800 Tim Sims

1995 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 4 0 1.000 Tim Sims

1999 Brooksville Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 5 1 .833 Tim Sims

2000 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 4 0 1.000 Tim Sims

2005 Brooksville Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 4 1 .800 Tim Sims

2005 Spring Hill National AAA Minors (10-U) 7 1 .875 David Smith

2008 Spring Hill Senior Boys (age 14) 5 1 .833 Mike Sollazzo

2008 Spring Hill American AAA Majors (11-12) 6 1 .857 Shawn Laferty

2010 Spring Hill National AAA Majors (11-12) 6 0 1.000 Al Sorrentino

2010 Spring Hill Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 4 1 .800 Frank Vitale

2011 Spring Hill National AAA Majors (11-12) 7 0 1.000 Shawn Laferty

2011 Spring Hill Junior Boys (age 13) 5 0 1.000 Jeff Hamilton

2013 ## Spring Hill Boys 15-Under 3 1 .750 Anthony DiSciascio

2013 Spring Hill American AAA Minors (10-U) 6 0 1.000 Erik Andress

2013 Spring Hill Senior Boys (age 14) 6 0 1.000 Shawn Laferty

2014 Spring Hill American Majors Ozone (ages 12-13) 5 0 1.000 Joe Abbadessa

2014 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 3 1 .750 Tim Sims

2014 Spring Hill American AAA Minors (10-U) 6 0 1.000 Erik Andress

TOTALS (21) —12—

## Denotes co-state champions with Winter Haven

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