ARCADIA – Thanks to right-hander Jacob Kelly’s imposing complete game 1-hitter, Hernando County’s old Dixie Youth Baseball record book has a new entry.
Spring Hill American’s talented AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars created a new page Thursday night venturing down a path where few teams – none previously from the West Hernando County program – had ever traversed.
Skipper Erik Andress’ crew completed a six-game sweep of the original 10-team 24th annual State Tournament at the Walt Brewer Sports Complex in Arcadia by solving Bartow in the semifinals, 5-1, before slamming Sebring in 3½ innings in walk-off fashion the nightcap, 10-0.
Behind SH American’s seventh straight win this summer, Andress’ club (6-0 states, 11-1 overall) not only hoisted its second straight state banner in this age group, but created history becoming the first Hernando County program to go back-to-back at the state level since Ernie Chatman’s Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) turned the trick from 1981-83.
If that wasn’t all after the game, the West Hernando County crew was further feted receiving the prestigious Sportsmanship Award.
It was a touch of déjà vu as Andress’ team received the same honor at the conclusion of the District 6 Tournament from host Bushnell at the Kenny Dixon Sports Complex.
With the win, SH American will represent Florida Aug. 9-14 at the World Series in Lexington, S.C.
SH American needed 67 minutes to complete its sweep as Sebring (3-2 states, 6-2 overall) was restricted to a Jacob Jackson double off the left-field fence in the third inning off Kelly (2-0 states, 4-1 overall).
To get a feel for how difficult a night it was for the Highlands County crew, with Jonathan Delgado aboard on one of Kelly’s two free passes with two outs, Jackson lined a shot that clanked off the 200-foot fence.
But on a night where Spring Hill’s defense converted all 18 chances it faced, center fielder Quintin Hotop retrieved the ball and threw a seed back to shortstop Riley Cullum, who relayed a perfect peg to third sacker Sammy Sanchez to cut down Delgado for the third out.
The Highlands County crew, which fell to SH American on Wednesday, 5-2, generated only four baserunners against Kelly and torpedoed its own upset chances by committing a game-high four errors.
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“Offensively, I thought we brought a better approach at the plate,” indicated Sebring skipper Kirby Whitehouse. “Defensively, we’ve got to make outs when they’re presented. We didn’t execute on basic throws.
“It wasn’t our night. We hit a ball that almost goes out and Spring Hill gets the ball back and throws us out at third,” recalled the frustrated Whitehouse. “I’m still very proud of this team; we’ll be all right.”
After facing Spring Hill twice, “They’re a solid team. They’re all tough outs,” described Coach Whitehouse. “Top to bottom those guys just chip away at you. Then when we hit the ball they’ll make plays. They came in here hungry.”
From the opposite dugout, Coach Andress marveled on how his team elevated its play from districts.
“I didn’t anticipate this team’s heart,” acknowledged Andress, who is only the fourth of 12 Hernando County Dixie mentors to ever win multiple state crowns in 55 years. “What I take away from this is our pitching was as good as it was last year at Freeport.
“Defensively, we’ve been outstanding. It’s funny, but we hadn’t put it all together here until today,” he said. “Believe or not, that relay off the fence is something we practice every day. That’s why the execution tonight didn’t surprise me; it’s was really second nature for us.”
After Kelly walked a pair and fanned two in his second complete game outing of the tourney, “Jacob has been lights out the whole tournament,” noted Coach Andress. “He didn’t like his performance at districts. He carried himself much better here.”
On the toting home two trophies, “The state banner and trophy speak for themselves, but the Sportsmanship Award says a lot more about our players, our coaches and the fans that support us,” detailed Andress. “It’s been a long week. Any time we could lend a hand to help the Arcadia folks running the tournament we did; that’s the least we could do.”
According to Coach Andress, repeating was much tougher than winning states in Freeport last summer.
“There’s no doubt, it was tougher this time,” indicated Coach Andress. “The expectations were greater last year. This group needed to believe in themselves. Winning tonight is great; it’s really a relief.
“Honestly, after districts I had some question marks in my mind,” added Andress. “I told our guys the other nine teams here want to take something from us; they responded tremendously.”
The title game was broken open early behind a seven-run second inning featuring five Spring Hill hits and three Sebring errors.
As SH American paraded 11 batters to the plate off starter Case McClelland (0-1) and Josh Regino, the uprising was highlighted by an RBI double by Gavin McMurdo and RBI singles by Hotop and Talon Bergantino.
SH American tallied three runs with one out in the bottom of the fourth off Sebring’s third pitcher, Owen Lowe.
Jaxon Newhall, who scored two runs from the No. 9 hole, reached on an infield hit and eventually scored on an error.
Aiden Leskauskas scored on Sanchez’s RBI single while Bergantino scored on Izzy LaRoche’s bases-loaded, game-ending infield single.
“This is big because we get to go to the Word Series,” said the 9-year-old LaRoche, who tied Bergantino going 2-for-2 plus a walk in the 11-hit attack. “I’ve never gone before.
LaRoche praised the pitching and defense, saying, “We were pretty awesome on defense tonight and Jacob did a great job.”
“Jacob is a good friend and he pitched like a beast,” chimed in the 10-year-old Leskauskas, who finished 1-for-3 while sparkling at second base. “Tonight was really big because I’ve never gone to the World Series.”
“I thought I had medium stuff,” explained the 11-year-old Kelly. “I felt pretty good out there. They were a decent team. Now, I’m just looking for a nice adventure at the World Series.”
On summing up SH American’s efforts, “All of our hard practices led up to today. It was all worth it,” pointed out Kelly.
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In Game 1 on Saturday, Spring Hill opened the tourney by turning back host DeSoto County in four innings, 11-0.
Sanchez (1-0) earned the mound victory hurling the first two frames not allowing a hit or a walk while fanning four. He departed with an 8-0 cushion.
Leskauskas worked the final two innings yielding one hit and one walk against two strikeouts.
Offensively, Cullum paced the winners going 3-for-3 with three runs scored and one RBI. Leskauskas and Kelly each finished 2-for-3 and combined to score three runs and knock in five.
In a two-run first inning, Kelly’s two-run single plated Cullum and Leskauskas. The following inning’s six-run rally was punctuated by Kelly’s two-run single, Newhall’s sacrifice fly and Sal LoDuca’s run-scoring fielder’s choice.
To close out matters in a three-run fourth, Newhall walked and eventually scored on Cullum’s RBI single. A throwing error permitted Cullum to race home.
Leskauskas scampered home on a wild pitch to close the scoring.
In Sunday’s Game 2, SH American busted open a tie game with six runs in the top of the sixth to solve Lake Placid, 9-3.
Talon Bergantino departed after three innings ahead, 2-1. He yielded three hits and two walks against five punch-outs.
Cullum, the hero of the miracle District 6 championship game against South Lake, hurled the last three frames to earn the mound win. In all, Cullum was touched up for two runs on six hits and one walk against three strikeouts.
Talon Bergantino and Kelly each rapped two hits to pace the victors. Cullum chipped in one hit, two RBI and two runs scored.
Cullum scampered home on a wild pitch for Spring Hill’s first run in the first inning to tie matters. In the second frame, Caden Bergantino scored on another wild pitch, 2-1.
LaRoche’s RBI fielder’s choice upped the cushion to 3-1 in the fourth.
Rewinding the critical six-run sixth inning, Hotop’s RBI single plated courtesy runner LoDuca, who was inserted for Sanchez.
Cullum followed with a clutch two-run single plating Owen Andress and Hotop. Leskauskas’ RBI single scored Newhall. Talon Bergantino lined an RBI single to plate Cullum. Leskauskas closed the books scoring on an error.
Monday night’s 8-5 win over West Seminole featured a patented six-run Spring Hill first inning.
Cullum scored on Leskauskas’ RBI single. Sanchez’s RBI single plated Talon Bergantino. Kelly scored on LaRoche’s RBI single.
Newhall emptied the bases with a three-run double to right-center plating LaRoche, Owen Andress and Hotop.
In a two-run third inning, Talon Bergantino, who collected a team-high two hits, and Kelly each plated unearned runs.
On the hill, Kelly threw a complete game scattering nine hits and five runs (one earned). He didn’t issue a walk and fanned a game-high nine batters.
After getting rained out Tuesday, SH American rallied from a 2-0 deficit after four innings Wednesday to trim Sebring, 5-2.
Talon Bergantino hurled the first three frames and departed trailing, 2-0. He allowed two runs on five hits and three walks against five strikeouts.
Sanchez earned the mound win in relief, working the last three scoreless frames. He permitted three hits and one walk against four strikeouts.
At the plate, Kelly led the West Hernando County club going 3-for-3 with two doubles. Newhall chipped in two hits including a double.
Spring Hill got on the board in the fourth as Leskauskas doubled and promptly scored on Kelly’s booming two-bagger.
In the two-run fifth, Hotop walked before Newhall crushed an RBI double. Cullum followed with an RBI double to right-center, 3-2 Spring Hill.
Spring Hill tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth. Kelly singled and Owen Andress coaxed a free pass before Hotop drove them both in with a triple down the right-field line.
In Thursday’s semifinals, Sammy Sloan’s RBI single plated Ryland Music to stake Bartow to a first-inning 1-0 cushion.
Though held to four hits, SH American rallied to oust Bartow, 5-1.
Talon Bergantino departed after three innings ahead, 3-1. The southpaw Bergantino earned the mound victory yielding one run on one hit and two free passes against three punch-outs.
Leskauskas faced 11 batters over the next three frames permitting an infield hit to Sloan and nothing else. He fanned two and did not walk a batter.
After Cullum scored on a wild pitch, Kelly’s RBI single plated Talon Bergantino in the bottom of the first for a 2-1 cushion.
LoDuca was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded in the second plating LaRoche, 3-1.
Owen Andress and Hotop each plated unearned runs in the fifth off Robbie Putnam to close the scoring.
Spring Hill American 10, Sebring 0 (3½ Innings)
123 4 R H E
SEB 000 0 – 0 1 4
SHA 070 3 – 10 11 0
SEB – McClelland, Regino (2), Lowe (3) and Whitehouse and McClelland (3).
SHA – Kelly and Andress.
W – Kelly (2-0 states, 4-1 overall). L – McClelland (0-1).
2B – Jackson (SEB), McMurdo (SHA).
Records – Sebring (3-2 states, 6-2 overall), Spring Hill American (6-0 states, 11-1 overall).
2014 24th annual Dixie Baseball AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars State Tourney Recap
at Arcadia’s Walt Brewer Complex
Lake Placid 7, South Lake 6
Spring Hill American 11, DeSoto County 0 (4 Innings)
West Seminole 10, Bartow 0
West Volusia 12, South Walton 2 (4)
Sebring 14, Marianna 4 (4)
Marianna – bye
West Seminole – bye
South Lake 13, DeSoto County 1 (4)
Bartow 7, South Walton 4
Spring Hill American 9, Lake Placid 3
Sebring 4, West Volusia 3
Sebring – bye
West Volusia – bye
Bartow 4, South Lake 3
Lake Placid 11, Marianna 2
Spring Hill American 8, West Seminole 5
Bartow 12, West Volusia 2
West Seminole 9, Lake Placid 0
Spring Hill American 5, Sebring 2
Sebring 8, West Seminole 6
Spring Hill American 5, Bartow 1
Spring Hill American 10, Sebring 0 (3½)
2014 Final 24th annual Dixie Youth League AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars State Baseball Tournament Standings
at Arcadia’s Walt Brewer Complex.
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Spring Hill American* 6 0 .000 48 11
2. Sebring 3 2 .600 28 28
3. Bartow 3 2 .600 24 24
4. West Seminole 2 2 .500 30 16
4. Lake Placid 2 2 .500 21 26
6. West Volusia 1 2 .333 17 18
6. South Lake 1 2 .333 22 11
8. Marianna 0 2 .000 6 25
8. South Walton 0 2 .000 6 19
8. DeSoto County 0 2 .000 1 24
TOTALS (10) 18 18 .500
* Advances to Aug. 9-14 AAA Minors World Series at Lexington, S.C.
By the numbers: Past AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars State Champions (1991-2014)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
1991 Northeast Pensacola
1992 Northeast Pensacola
1995 Northeast Pensacola
1997 Myrtle Grove
1998 Pensacola-Bellview American
1999 Myrtle Grove
2000 Oak Griner
2005 Spring Hill National
2008 West Seminole
2011 West Seminole
2013 Spring Hill American
2014 Spring Hill American
Previous Hernando County AAA Minors State Results (2000-14)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR TEAM W L .PCT HEAD COACH
2002 ^ Spring Hill American 4 2 .667 Bobby Pasarela
2003 ^ Spring Hill American 4 2 .667 Ed Bunnell
2004 Spring Hill American 3 2 .600 Mike Sollazzo
2004 Spring Hill National 2 2 .500 Robert Miller
2004 Brooksville American 2 2 .500 Gerald Johnson
2005 $$ Spring Hill National 7 1 .875 David Smith
2006 ^ Spring Hill American 5 3 .625 Jim Keith
2007 Spring Hill American 1 2 .333 Vito Tambasco Sr.
2008 Spring Hill American 3 2 .600 Al Sorrentino
2009 Brooksville 3 2 .600 Bruce Price
2011 Spring Hill American 2 2 .500 Joe Abbadessa
2012 Spring Hill American 3 2 .600 Joe Abbadessa
2013 $$ Spring Hill American 6 0 1.000 Erik Andress
2014 $$ Spring Hill American 6 0 1.000 Erik Andress
TOTALS (14) 51 24 .680 —12—
^ Denotes state runners-up
$$ Denotes state champion
All-Time Hernando County Dixie Baseball State Champions (1959-13/54 Seasons)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR TEAM W L .PCT COACH
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