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Wednesday, Apr 01, 2015

Spring Hill American defused in O-Zone debut

Hernando Today correspondent


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Floridians are accustomed to the summer rainy season.

One can expect afternoon showers practically every day - along with some severe lightning exhibitions that produce power failures.

Between the lines, the same thing happened to Hernando County's first-ever entry at the Dixie Baseball O-Zone level.

Head coach Tom Smith's Spring Hill American AAA Majors (ages 11-12) All-Stars made a smashing debut in this past week's 8th annual O-Zone State Tournament at East Lakeland's Aldine Combee Park, lashing Liberty County in the opener of the 10-team, six-day event, 13-0 (five innings).

The next day featured the torrential weather pattern Floridians are used to. In a game halted several times by severe weather, West Seminole American dropped SH American into the lethal loser's bracket via a 13-0 spanking (four innings).

After a bye, SH American jumped out to what appeared to be a comfortable 6-0 cushion in its third-round game against Marianna.

The lead seemed so insurmountable, first-year Coach Smith opted to remove his pitcher, daughter Hailey Smith.

But after Hailey Smith departed a chain reaction began as Marianna plated nine runs in the fifth to eventually eliminate the stunned West Hernando County crew, 9-6.

For its part, Marinna was eliminated the next day by West Seminole American, 10-7.

Though Hardee County forced a winner-take-all final with an 8-7 nod in the state semifinal, West Seminole American (5-1) captured the state title by halting Hardee County (5-2) in the final, 7-2.

In evaluating Spring Hill American's 1-2 performance, "Hindsight is 20/20. In our third game, how'd I know that our third pitcher wouldn't be on?" shrugged Coach Smith. "Our plan was to go 2-2-2 with our pitchers. We were cruising and I started thinking about playing on Wednesday (in a possible rematch with West Seminole American).

"Then a base hit here and another there, a few walks and then all of a sudden we had some fielding errors and it just snowballed," recalled Coach Smith. "One bad inning did us in. They didn't score in any other inning."

On the overall picture, "Only played three games and two were terrible," explained a frustrated Coach Smith. "We certainly didn't bring our 'A' game against West Seminole.

"We did hit the ball, except against West Seminole. We had contributions offensively from everyone in the lineup."

Coach Smith expects to return next summer and coach Spring Hill's Junior Boys (age 13) All-Stars. He pointed out that all but one player will be moving up in classification.

"This year's experience was too short," stressed Coach Smith. "Next year the whole team moves up except one player. Overall, the emotions run a lot harder. If I could do it all over again, I would have tuned out a lot more.

"The most disappointing about thing about states wasn't about getting beat 13-0," detailed Coach Smith. "Those things happen in baseball. You win some, you lose some. What bothers me is that we gave our third game away. I don't mind losing fair and square, but no one can afford to hand the other team a game - that's the part that's hard to swallow."

SH American's highlights revolve around its three-homer efforts against Liberty County and Marianna.

Against Liberty County, Hailey Smith, Jaylon Fuzz and Justin Fribbley all went yard backing up Chris Neilson's impressive one-hit shutout across five innings.

After getting blanked by West Seminole, SH American erected its cushion against Marianna behind a trio of dingers by Fuzz, Fribbley and Sam Roush.

8th annual Dixie Baseball O-Zone AAA Majors (ages 11-12) State Tournament Recap

at East Lakeland's Aldine Combee Park


Hardee County 19, East Lakeland 0 (4)

West Volusia 8, Port St. Joe 5

Sebring 4, Marianna 2

West Seminole American 13, Lake Placid 5

Spring Hill 13, Liberty County 0 (5)


Sebring - bye

Port St. Joe 12, East Lakeland 3

Marianna 8, Lake Placid 7 (5)

West Seminole American 13, Spring Hill 0 (4)

Hardee County 4, West Volusia 3 (5)


West Seminole American - bye

Spring Hill - bye

Marianna 9, Port St. Joe 7

West Volusia 8, Liberty County 1

Sebring 15, Hardee County 5


Marianna 9, Spring Hill American 6

Hardee County 13, West Volusia 7

West Seminole American 5, Sebring 2


Hardee County 16, Sebring 2 (4)

West Seminole American 10, Marianna 7


Hardee County 8, West Seminole American 7 (5)


West Seminole American 7, Hardee County 2

8th annual Dixie Baseball O-Zone AAA Majors (ages 11-12) State Tournament Standings

at East Lakeland's Aldine Combee Park

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


1. West Seminole American 5 1 .833 55 24

2. Hardee County 5 2 .714 67 41

3. Marianna 3 2 .600 35 34

4. Sebring 2 2 .500 23 28

4. West Volusia 2 2 .500 26 23

6. Spring Hill American 1 2 .333 19 22

6. Port St. Joe 1 2 .333 24 20

8. Lake Placid 0 2 .000 12 21

8. Liberty County 0 2 .000 01 21

8. East Lakeland 0 2 .000 03 31

TOTALS (10) 19 19 .500

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