For the third time in six summers, West Volusia’s Juniors Boys (age 13) All-Stars captured Florida Dixie Youth Baseball’s state championship Monday night in Highlands County.
West Volusia (3-0) pitching fanned 15 Spring Hill batters en route to a dominating 4-0 whitewash, completing a three-game tourney sweep of this weekend’s 18th annual event at the City of Sebring’s Max Long Baseball Complex.
With the win, West Volusia’s second straight in this age division, they’ll represent Florida in the 12-team Aug. 2-6 World Series at Bossier City, La.
Despite finishing 1-2 in the tiny three-team field, the Spring Hill 13s finished as state runners-up for the third time since 2009.
Skipper Bill Collins’ crew fell in the tourney opener on Saturday against West Volusia, 8-2. The scoreboard was deceptive. Through five innings, the teams were tangled in a scoreless deadlock.
On Sunday, West Volusia bopped Bushnell, 7-4, while Spring Hill rallied for two dramatic runs in the bottom of the seventh to solve winless Bushnell, 9-8.
Down to their last strike in the top of the seventh, Bushnell blasted a three-run homer to lead, 8-7.
In the bottom of the frame, Spring Hill’s Kohl LaRoche grounded weakly to third base. But two ensuing throwing errors on the play permitted LaRoche to race around the bags to knot the score, 8-8.
Sam Roush reached on a walk and Henry Fernandez singled before Jaylon Fuzz grounded into a double play erasing Fernandez and Fuzz.
Thinking there were three outs, Bushnell began to celebrate.
With only two outs, Coach Collins correctly waved Roush around third base where he beat a belated relay to home plate, 9-8 Spring Hill.
On Monday, Spring Hill needed to topple West Volusia twice to wrestle away the state crown.
The disappointment of finishing second didn’t damper Coach Collins’ experience.
“We stayed in the same hotel as West Volusia and they were a first-class bunch, from the coaches all the way through their lineup,” indicated Coach Collins. “I’ve never experienced a more hospitable group than they were.”
The tree coaches agreed that the teams in the tournament were evenly matched, Collins said.
“To me, all three of our games could have gone either way,” he said. “In the last game it was scoreless tie again through five.”
The difference, according to Collins, was Spring Hill’s lack of punch.
“I can’t find fault with our two starters against West Seminole, Sam (Roush) and Hunter (Berger),” noted Collins. “Those two kept us in both games. They pitched their guts out; I couldn’t have asked for more from them.
“…To me, the difference came at the plate. Their (West Volusia) last pitcher is a special kid. We did everything to adjust to his curve balls. Bottom line, we just couldn’t get the bats rolling against them.”
Collins admitted afterward that he wouldn’t have changed a thing facing West Volusia.
“We put up the best lineup we could,” he said. “I liked the kids we had in there. We just couldn’t get the bats going. I don’t have any regrets. The kids shouldn’t either; they gave me everything they had. Overall, it was a great experience.”
2014 Dixie Junior Boys (age 13) All-Stars State Baseball Championship Recap at the City of Sebring’s Max Long Baseball Complex
Bushnell – bye
West Volusia 8, Spring Hill 2
West Volusia 7, Bushnell 4
Spring Hill 9, Bushnell 8 (7 Innings)
West Volusia 4, Spring Hill 0
2014 Final Dixie Junior Boys (age 13) All-Stars State Baseball Tournament Standings at the City of Sebring’s Max Long Baseball Complex
— Compiled by Tony Castro
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. West Volusia* 3 0 1.000 19 6
2. Spring Hill 1 2 .333 11 20
3. Bushnell 0 2 .000 12 16
TOTALS (12) 4 4 .500
* Advances to Aug. 2-6 12-team World Series at Bossier City, La.
Past Florida Dixie Junior Boys (age 13) State Champions
1996 Avon Park
1997 Myrtle Grove
1999 Myrtle Grove
2001 Panama City-Southport
2002 Panama City-Southport
2003 Panama City-Southport
2004 Panama City-Southport
2006 Panama City-Southport
2009 West Volusia
2010 West Seminole
2011 Spring Hill
2013 West Volusia
2014 West Volusia