Despite a 459-mile journey spanning nearly 7½ hours on the road, Spring Hill’s AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars aren’t settling.
The two-time District 6 and two-time Florida state champions under skipper Erik Andress departed Thursday for the 17th World Series at the manicured Lexington Sports Complex in Lexington, S.C.
The six-day, double-elimination format begins Saturday and runs through Thursday for 12 teams including: Spring Hill; Hope Mills, N.C.; Springfield, Tenn.; Rustburg, Va.; Pineville, La.; Delmae, S.C.; Kosciusko, Miss.; Perry, Ga.; Fairhope National, Ala.; Texarkana West, Ark.; Nacogdoches, Texas and host Lexington.
Hartsville Northern, S.C. is the tourney’s defending champion.
The Spring Hill nine, which hasn’t played a tourney this summer within Hernando County, is 11-1 overall (.917) and will arrive as winners of its last seven tilts.
Andress, who guided the club to a 2-2 run last summer at the Laurel Sportsplex in Laurel, Miss., is in the same position this time – but a little wiser.
Only one of the past 16 Sunshine State entries – 2011’s West Seminole – has ever captured this event.
Entering Saturday’s opening-round confrontation with Texarkana West at 8 p.m., Andress understands none of the previous 10 Spring Hill World Series entries since 2005 have ever returned home as World Series champions.
That lack of achievement at this level, however, serves as a source of motivation to his team.
“It would be really nice it. Actually it would be really great,” declared Andress, who is a combined 24-4 (.857) in this age group over the past two seasons. “But I’d rather have the kids come in like we’ve been here before.
“Believe me, after playing for a few months you’d like to be rewarded. I just want our kids to treat this as business as usual.”
Since playing in last year’s World Series, “It’s much more relaxing this time,” noted Andress. “This time, we know what to expect from the opening ceremonies going forward. I can tell you this tournament will be much more of a dogfight. A lot of travel ball-type teams will be here.”
Since completing a rare repeat at states in DeSoto County last month, Andress says his team has worked at not only honing but refining all the little details of its game. He said the repetition will result in plays being made rather than thinking during the games.
On his team’s approach, “The brackets offer us a chance,” said Andress. “If we win those first two games, we’ll get a bye into Tuesday’s round – that saves our pitching, which is a premium in baseball.
“I can tell you we’re going to put everything we can into winning that first game. We faced Texarkana in our second game last year and it was a scrap (a 3-2 Spring Hill win in seven innings).”
On the keys to success, “At this level, every team in the field can hit,” indicated Andress. “As a staff we’re going to have to change the pace for the hitters.
“We’re going up there to win it. These kids and our coaches have put a lot of effort to get into this position. We think we work harder than anyone else. When you outwork people anything is possible.”
At a Glance
What – 17th Dixie Baseball AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars World Series.
Who – Twelve teams in a double-elimination format featuring: Spring Hill; Hope Mills, N.C.; Springfield, Tenn.; Rustburg, Va.; Pineville, La.; Delmae, S.C.; Kosciusko, Miss.; Perry, Ga.; Fairhope National, Ala.; Texarkana West, Ark.; Nacogdoches, Texas and host Lexington. Defending champion is South Carolina.
Where – Lexington Sports Complex at Lexington, S.C.
When – Saturday through Thursday (weather permitting).
At Stake – World Series championship.
2014 Spring Hill American AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars
NO. PLAYER POSITION(S)
1 Sammy Sanchez* INF/OF
2 Izzy LaRoche* OF/C/P
3 Riley Cullum* INF/P
4 Owen Andress* C
6 Jaxon Newhall * INF/OF/P
7 Salvatore LoDuca OF/INF
8 Talon Bergantino* INF/P
9 Quintin Hotop* OF/INF/P
11 Jacob Kelly* INF/P
13 Caden Bergantino* OF/INF
21 Gavin McMurdo* OF/INF
34 Aiden Leskauskas* INF/P
* Denotes returning AA Rookies or AAA Minors All-Star
Head Coach – Erik Andress
Asst. Coach – Mike Bergantino
Asst. Coach – Mike Cullum
The Road to the World Series
24th annual Florida AAA Minors (ages 10-U) State Tourney
Recap at Arcadia’s Walt Brewer Complex
Spring Hill American 11, DeSoto County 0 (4 Innings)
Spring Hill American 9, Lake Placid 3
Spring Hill American 8, West Seminole 5
Spring Hill American 5, Sebring 2
Spring Hill American 5, Bartow 1
Spring Hill American 10, Sebring 0 (3½)
2014 District 6 AAA Minors (ages 9-10) Tourney Recap
at Bushnell’s Kenny Dixon Sports Complex
Spring Hill American 9, Brooksville 8 (5.5 Innings)
Spring Hill American 11, Spring Hill National 1
Spring Hill American 20, South Lake National 0 (4)
Spring Hill American 4, Wesley Chapel Navy 1
South Lake National 14, Spring Hill American 6
Spring Hill American 16, South Lake National 14