OKEECHOBEE – Perhaps a signal from above arrived early for the Spring Hill Angels (ages 9-10) All-Stars during this past weekend’s Dixie Softball “X-play” State Tournament at the Okeechobee Sports Complex.
On the fourth pitch of Spring Hill’s tourney opener Friday against Avon Park, Victoria Ratigan crushed an inside-the-park homer.
In that same eight-run uprising, Karlee Plensdorf unloaded a three-run inside-the-park homer en route to a 2½-inning, mercy-rule shortened 18-0 victory over the Highlands County crew.
With the tone set, in Saturday’s second-round tilt Spring Hill took advantage of 20 Belleview walks and watched right-handers Jennifer Hackett and Ratigan combine on a three-inning perfect game, 15-0.
On Sunday, Sabrina Sessa, who along with Mariah Spring caught Saturday’s perfecto, rapped two hits and drove in two runs as Hackett won her third tournament game behind a brilliant 1-hitter in 2½ innings over Belleview to clinch a state title, 10-0.
Thanks to the impressive three-game sweep, Spring Hill (3-0 states, 7-1 overall) raised its first state crown in this age group since 2012 in Franklin County.
Head coach Scott Budlove’s squad advanced to the 3rd annual “X-play” World Series July 25-30 at Atoka, Tenn.
After dominating its opponents, 43-0, Coach Budlove not only savored his first-ever state crown but was further humbled by receiving the tourney’s Sportsmanship Award.
“It was three wins in three games,” said Coach Budlove. “We were clicking on all cylinders in every facet of our game: pitching, hitting, baserunning and defense.
“We made very few mistakes,” admitted Coach Budlove on the keys to the tourney sweep. “What mistakes we did make were miniscule.”
On Belleview, “Even though the final score suggests otherwise, this wasn’t a cakewalk,” noted Budlove. “Belleview has some great players, too.
“This (tournament) was pretty sweet for several reasons,” Budlove said. “Beside the championship trophy, taking home the Sportsmanship Award says a lot about our players, our coaches and their families.
“Right now, we’re going to savor this for a couple of days and then go back to work,” added Budlove. “As far as the World Series, we’re all going into the unknown. This group hasn’t experienced this before.”
In a universal theme, Spring Hill players praised their consistent defense and stellar pitching.
“We actually played really well defensively,” explained the 11-year-old Alyssa Wheeler. “It’s like we made plays on every ball hit to us. We all knew where the ball needed to go.
“Our pitchers did excellent,” added Wheeler. “They all knew they had to throw strikes. This (winning states) is great because it’s my first time going to the World Series.”
“Winning states is just amazing. Our pitchers did great; they threw strikes,” added the 10-year-old Faith Budlove. “We were very focused on defense. We really put our minds to it.
“The credit for winning belongs to out mascot,” said the younger Budlove, extending her hand holding a tiny lizard. “Our mascot’s called Okeechobee Rosie Black – she brought us good luck.”
“It’s so cool to win states,” said the 11-year-old Alexis Lendo. “We were all pretty nervous before we got here. You never think you’re going to make the World Series until it happens.”
“Our defense was really good the whole tournament and so was our pitching,” detailed the 10-year-old Kaitlyn Black. “As a pitcher, you have to trust your defense and we did.
“I thought Belleview did real well. You can’t take anything away from them for reaching the finals,” added Black. “The key for us is we’re like sisters on this team. We really put our hearts into this.”
❖ ❖ ❖
In Game 1, Spring Hill outhit Avon Park, 13-1. Mariah Spring, Sessa, Black and Ratigan paced Spring Hill with 2-for-2 efforts. Each also scored two runs and combined for seven runs batted in.
In the circle, Hackett earned the mound win departing with an 8-0 cushion after fanning all three batters she faced in the first inning. Ratigan hurled the second frame allowing one walk against three strikeouts.
Black worked the last inning yielding one hit and two free passes against two punch-outs.
In Game 2, Hackett left after two innings ahead, 9-0. Hackett notched four strikeouts before Ratigan fanned all three batters she faced. Neither pitcher issued a walk.
At the plate, a four-run first inning again set the tone. Ratigan and Faith Budlove, who each coaxed three walks, were aboard prior to Spring’s two-run double.
Hackett followed with a single before stealing second. With a pair of runners in scoring position, Plensdorf drove in two runs to complete the uprising.
Ratigan, Faith Budlove, Mariah Spring, Ava Rozsa and Kelsey Shumate each plated two runs for the victors.
In Sunday’s title-clincher, Hackett earned her third win at states and fourth this summer by spinning a three-inning 1-hitter. In all, Hackett issued one walk against a game-high seven punch-outs.
Spring Hill drained any suspense behind an eight-run first frame. The West Hernando County squad collected a game-high 10 hits.
Ratigan, Faith Budlove and Mariah Spring all scored on Hackett’s booming three-run triple. Plensdorf and Sessa followed with RBI singles.
Lendo and Wheeler reached with back-to-back safeties before Black walked to load the sacks. Rouza, Alexis Spring and Ratigan coaxed walks to push home Lendo, Wheeler and Black.
Spring Hill 15, Belleview 0 (3½ Innings)
123 4 R H E
BELL 000 0 – 0 1 0
SH 000 x – 10 10 0
SH – Hackett and Sessa and M. Spring (3).
W – Hackett (3-0 states, 4-0 overall)
2B – M. Spring (SH).
3B – Hackett (SH).
Records – Belleview (2-2 states), Spring Hill (3-0 states, 7-1 overall).
2014 Final Dixie Softball Angels (ages 9-10) “X-play” State Tournament Recap
at Okeechobee Sports Complex
Spring Hill 18, Avon Park 0 (2½ Innings)
Belleview 11, Okeechobee 1
Okeechobee 13, Avon Park 1
Spring Hill 15, Belleview 0 (3)
Belleview 8, Okeechobee 5
Spring Hill 10, Belleview 0 (2½)
2014 Final Dixie Softball Angels (ages 9-10) “X-play” State Tournament Standings
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Spring Hill* 3 0 1.000 43 0
2. Belleview 2 2 .500 19 31
3. Okeechobee 1 2 .000 19 20
3. Avon Park 0 2 .500 1 31
TOTALS (4) 6 6 .500
* Denotes advances to July 25-30 3rd annual “X-Play” World Series at Atoka, Tenn.