SPRING HILL – Redemption arrives in many shapes in sizes. Just ask the District 4 champion Spring Hill Angels (ages 9-10) All-Stars.
Spring Hill skipper Scott Budlove heaved a sigh of relief as his softball team came to his aid with three tournament wins in less than 24 hours highlighted by Monday night’s district-clinching, four-inning 12-1 victory.
Budlove’s squad actually captured five games between the lines across four days of the District 4 Tournament at the steamy Anderson Snow Sports Complex.
Ironically, the title was the Angels’ first since the 2010 crown in Spring Hill.
After toppling Wesley Chapel Friday night, 5-1, Spring Hill was ahead 4-3 against West Pasco Saturday afternoon.
But moments after the top of the fifth began, Budlove’s squad was forced to forfeit due to a rules infraction.
Dixie Softball guidelines are clear: all substitutions must be reported to the main scorekeeper.
Budlove entered his subs into the fray, but never officially reported his substitutions resulting in a West Pasco victory.
Facing elimination on Sunday, Budlove admitted to his team that the coach had “messed up and that he needed the girls to bail him out.”
The team responded by sweeping a twin bill. Spring Hill ousted Brooksville, 8-4, before blanking West Pasco, 2-0, forcing a winner-take-all title game Monday night.
On Monday, a trio of Spring Hill hurlers – Victoria Ratigan (one inning), Kaitlyn Black (one inning) and Jennifer Hackett (two innings) – combined with catchers Sabrina Sessa and Mariah Spring for a no-hitter.
Of West Pasco’s 14 batters, only two reached: both on first-inning errors. The Spring Hill mound triumvirate combined for five punch outs, while not issuing a walk.
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“Their pitching was dominant,” pointed out West Pasco skipper Tom Pirozzi. “Their third pitcher (Hackett) was outstanding. We had trouble hitting her yesterday and today.
“We played hard and I couldn’t be prouder of these girls,” he added. “Only four girls move up. We’ll be back next year.”
From the home dugout, Coach Budlove was flush with pride.
“I’m most proud of the no-quit attitude of this team,” said Budlove. “I told the girls yesterday I made a mistake and I needed them to pick me up.”
On the keys to the game, “Our hitting was nonstop,” pointed out Coach Budlove. “I couldn’t have asked for a better offensive performance.”
On trailing 1-0 early, “Sure, I was a little nervous after the first inning,’ indicated Budlove. “But Kaitlyn (Black) was phenomenal in that second inning. She gave us exactly what we needed: a shutdown inning.
“Then Jen (Hackett) came in and threw darts – like she has the entire tournament – and just shut it down.”
After capturing his initial district title, “The district championship is amazing. I’ve been a bundle of nerves for the past couple of days,” said Coach Budlove. “This is sweeter because it went five games.”
With the win, the Spring Hill Angels will join the SH Darlings (ages 7-8) and SH Ponytails (11-12) at the July 10-14 State Championship in Okeechobee.
Looking ahead, “There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever that we can’t compete at states,” Budlove said. “We’re as good as anyone else.”
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West Pasco scored its unearned run thanks to three first-inning Spring Hill miscues.
With one out, West Pasco shortstop Caitlin Blankenship reached on an error and motored all the way to third on another overthrow.
As catcher Stephanie Celeste grounded out to shortstop, Blankenship easily scored.
Four pitches later Kendall Rubel grounded into a comebacker to Ratigan, who’s relay throw to first base was dropped.
From that point on, the final 10 Pasco County batters were retired in order.
After Spring Hill left the bases loaded in the first frame and was retired 1-2-3 in the second, the hosts took advantage of four hits and five West Pasco errors for eight unearned runs off starting pitcher Ashley Morrell.
In a game where Spring Hill batters received eight walks, Faith Budlove’s one-out, bases-loaded free pass forced home Kelsey Shumate.
With two outs, Hackett ripped a two-run single to left-center plating Alexis Spring and Ratigan. Budlove scampered home on a wild pitch, 4-1.
After Karlee Plensdorf walked, Alyssa Wheeler reached on an error permitting Hackett to score. Another error permitted Plensdorf to race home, 6-1.
Sessa followed with an RBI single plating Wheeler. Another error on Black’s grounder to third allowed Sessa to score, 8-1.
After sending 13 batters to the plate in the third inning, Spring Hill tacked on four insurance runs on two hits in the fourth off reliever Blankenship.
Faith Budlove, who reached three times via two free passes and a hit by pitch, coaxed a bases-loaded walk to force home Ava Rozsa.
Mariah Spring drilled a two-run single to right-center before Plensdorf was plunked by a pitch with the sacks loaded forcing home Budlove.
Morrell reentered and retired the final three Spring Hill batters. Across four innings, Morrell (0-1) absorbed the loss yielding eight runs (all unearned) on five hits, four walks, one hit batter and one wild pitch against two strikeouts.
Blankenship, who failed to retire any of the seven batters she faced, was nicked for four runs on two hits, four walks and one hit batter against no strikeouts.
“Today was really fun,” explained the 11-year-old Sessa, who finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single. “I was down a little bit after the forfeit, but we came back. This is a really big win because now we’re going to Okeechobee.”
Like Sessa, Mariah Spring finished 1-for-3 with a two-run single in the fourth.
“I was just trying to knock in a few runs on my last at-last,” explained the 11-year-old Spring. “Even after the forfeit, I wasn’t really nervous because I knew we had such a great team.”
On Spring Hill’s pitching, “Hackett was great, but our other two pitchers did their best,” pointed out Spring. “And of course, we can still play better.”
“I felt pretty good today,” detailed the 11-year-old Hackett, who retired all six batters she faced, including four via strikeouts besides finishing with a game-high 3-for-3 at the plate. “Even after the forfeit, we didn’t have to be nervous.
“I’m so proud of how this team was able to rally and make it to states,” added Hackett. “We all know we can play better.”
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In Game 1 on Friday, Spring Hill opened on the right foot trimming Wesley Chapel.
Hackett, a right-hander, was the headliner hurling a complete-game one-hitter. Hackett (1-0) yielded one unearned run and one walk against a tournament-high 14 strikeouts.
Hackett struck out the side in the first, second, fourth and fifth frames.
The hosts opened the scoring in the second inning as Mariah Spring’s RBI single plated Hackett.
In a four-run, fifth-inning rally, Mariah Spring, Plensdorf and Kelsey Shumate all scored on Wheeler’s three-run double to left-center.
Ratigan helped build a 5-0 cushion plating Wheeler behind an RBI single. Wheeler led the hosts with a 2-for-2 effort.
In Game 2, Ratigan worked four innings allowing three runs on six hits and two walks against five strikeouts.
As Spring Hill outhit West Pasco, 11-6, Faith Budlove, Mariah Spring, Wheeler and Hackett each rapped two hits apiece.
The hosts opened the scoring as Wheeler scored following an RBI double by Ava Rozsa.
In a three-run fourth, Black’s fielder’s choice plated Faith Budlove, who had reached on a triple. Hackett and Sessa raced home on Mariah Spring’s two-run single.
In Game 3, behind a 14-hit attack, Ratigan paced the victors with a 3-for-3 effort, plus two runs scored and one RBI.
Faith Budlove, Mariah Spring, Hackett and Sessa each smacked two safeties apiece.
In a two-run first inning, Ratigan scored on Hackett’s RBI double. Moments later, Sessa doubled home Hackett, 2-0.
In a three-run third inning, Faith Budlove, Mariah Spring and Sessa each doubled home a runner, 5-0.
Ratigan, Faith Budlove and Mariah Spring each drove in a run in the three-run fourth inning.
On the hill, Ratigan (1-0) earned the mound win hurling the first four frames yielding one run and three hits along with two walks against six strikeouts.
Brooksville rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth against relievers Shumate and Black.
Shumate went two-thirds of an inning yielding three runs on one hit and three walks against two punch outs. Black recorded the final out on a strikeout.
As Spring Hill completed Sunday’s doubleheader sweep by blanking West Pasco, Ratigan (2-0) worked the first two innings allowing three hits and no walks against three strikeouts.
Over the final three frames, Hackett allowed two hits and one free pass while compiling eight strikeouts.
Spring Hill scored in the first inning as Ratigan doubled and raced home on Faith Budlove’s RBI double.
In the fifth, Spring Hill closed the books as Sessa doubled and easily scored on Black’s RBI single.
Spring Hill 12, West Pasco 1 (4 Innings)
123 4 R H E
SH 008 4 – 12 7 3
WP 100 0 – 1 0 5
SH – Ratigan, Black (2) and Hackett (3) and Sessa and M. Spring (3).
WP – Morell, Blankenship (4), Morrell (4) and Celeste.
W – Black (1-0). L – Morrell (0-1).
Records – Spring Hill (4-1), West Pasco (2-2).
2014 Dixie Softball District 4 Recap
at Spring Hill’s Anderson Sports Complex
Angels (ages 9-10)/4 teams
Spring Hill 5, Wesley Chapel 1
West Pasco 7, Brooksville 6
Brooksville 13, Wesley Chapel 10
West Pasco wins by forfeit over Spring Hill
(Spring Hill originally led, 4-3, but did not report in its substitutions)
Spring Hill 8, Brooksville 4
Spring Hill 2, West Pasco 0
Spring Hill 12, West Pasco 1 (4 Innings)
Belles (ages 13-15)/4 teams
West Pasco 11, Brooksville 4
Spring Hill 19, Wesley Chapel 12
Wesley Chapel 17, Brooksville 5
West Pasco 16, Spring Hill 4
Spring Hill 10, Wesley Chapel 8
West Pasco 8, Spring Hill 5