Never has calling "tails" pained so many in Hernando County.
Due to inclement weather - rolling area thunderstorms Sunday evening - the inaugural seven-team Dixie Boys Baseball 15-Under State Tournament at Springstead could not be decided between the lines. Instead, it was awash in arguments, disappointment and controversy
The event began on the wrong foot with Thursday's scheduled four games being rained out - thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea.
Play went smoothly over the next two days.
Through Saturday, four teams, host Springstead, Spring Hill (a combination of Central and Nature Coast players), West Seminole and Winter Haven remained mathematically alive in the double-elimination format.
At stake were two bids to represent Florida in the June 20 Dixie Region Tournament in Ozark, Ala.
In Sunday's early loser's bracket game, Spring Hill rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to eliminate West Seminole in a thriller, 7-6.
That's when all the problems began.
Springstead (2-0) went into its third-round game knowing with a win over 1-1 Winter Haven it'd play in the title game against its county brothers from Spring Hill.
Winter Haven, however, had other plans. Through three frames, the Polk County nine cracked 13 hits to ambush Springstead, 14-1.
With the loss, 2-1 Springstead was forced to play 2-1 Winter Haven again in an elimination game. The survivor would tackle Spring Hill in the 7 p.m. final. That was the plan.
Winter Haven continued to apply pressure scoring six runs on four hits through three frames of the doubleheader to lead, 6-1. Then the afternoon showers began, resulting in a game delay.
After prepping the field for play to continue, Mother Nature stepped in with a severe thunder and lightning display including heavier showers.
With Springstead's baseball field flooded, tourney officials gathered with the three remaining head coaches.
Dixie Boys state director Rick Callahan of Polk County was not on site. In his place was Dixie Majors state director Gayle Crowell - also from Polk County.
Springstead skipper Shawn Laferty offered that since his team would not be attending the Ozark Tournament - his entire will be participating that same weekend in the Senior Boys (age 14) District 6 Tourney at Ernie Wever - that he'd concede and not finish his semifinal game to Winter Haven.
Instead, he'd apply all his efforts in getting the field prepared for the championship final.
The problem was it would take an estimated 2-2½ hours, at the earliest, for the field to be declared safe to play.
By all accounts, that was not a good enough proposition for the Winter Haven head coach.
He expressed concern over starting and possibly finishing a game so late Sunday and then traveling nearly two hours back home. He pointed out that Monday was a work day for many of the parents who made the trip.
He also made it clear that he did not want his team returning to Spring Hill on Monday to complete the tournament.
Against this backdrop, Crowell decided a coin flip would snap the deadlock and decide the state championship.
Spring Hill skipper Anthony DiSciascio called tails. It turned up heads.
Winter Haven collected the tallest trophy and departed. Spring Hill and their fans were literally left holding the bag.
Crowell's coin-flip decision immediately set off a fire storm of criticism.
According to Dixie Baseball's Official Rule Book, pages 34-35, section 4.10, paragraph 4, it discusses the proper procedure should a tournament be unable to finish due to conditions beyond the control of the tournament director.
The procedure clearly states that decisions will be based on (a) head-to-head results, (b) win/loss, (c) fewest runs allowed if a or b do not determine a winner, (d) most runs scored if a, b, or c do not determine a winner, and finally (e) a coin toss.
Since Spring Hill opened the tournament Friday with a 13-9 head-to-head win against Winter Haven, the local fans were wondering how Crowell skipped the first four tiebreaker scenarios and went straight to the fifth.
The matter has left Coach DiSciascio and his fans fuming.
"Dixie has a rule book. It's crystal clear on what happens if a tournament can't be finished," he said. "At the end of the day, we paid our money to play baseball and accept either winning or losing. The sad thing is we didn't even get to play. "I said it then and I'll say it now, we wanted to play. . We would have gone to Winter Haven to finish that game."
On the biggest positives from the tourney, "I like our ability to find a way to stay in games and just battle," explained Coach DiSciascio. "We were down to 2-0 to Winter Haven on Friday and just kept clawing away. The credit belongs to the kids, they didn't give up."
On Wednesday, Spring Hill Dixie Baseball president Joe Abbadessa was informed by Dixie officials that Crowell admitted she made an incorrect call. To resolve the matter, both Spring Hill and Winter Haven have been named co-champions.
In recapping the tourney, Spring Hill snapped a 7-all tie after three frames to derail Winter Haven in Friday's first round, 13-9.
DiSciascio's club crushed 14 hits and had plenty of heroes. Spring Hill was led by Matt Warner's 4-for-5 effort featuring four singles and two runs batted in.
In Game 2, Spring Hill squandered a four-run lead, 8-4 through 5½ innings against Springstead, losing 10-9 on a dramatic two-out, walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh by Morgan Ashton.
Jeff Misener and Hunter Rhineberger combined on a masterful five-hit shutout over archrival Hernando on Saturday, 9-0.
Misener twirled six frames scattering four hits and one walk against five strikeouts. Rhineberger permitted one hit and fanned one hurling a scoreless seventh to eliminate 1-2 Hernando.
Spring Hill won on the game's last swing courtesy of Andres Cabrera's bases-loaded RBI single plating Justin Chevalier to edge West Seminole on Sunday, 7-6.
In the bottom of the seventh trailing 6-5, Misener's RBI single plated Matt Myers to tie matters.
Back-to-back walks to Chevalier and Thomas Sorrentino set the stage for a Cabrera blast that came within four feet of becoming a walk-off grand slam.
Stephen Bienstock led the Spring Hill offense going 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored. He finished 6-for-12 in the state tourney.
Misener, who finished 2-for-4, finished states 7-for-17 (.412), while Thomas Sorrentino went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and finished the series 7-for-14 (.500).
The host Springstead nine finished 2-2 overall.
"We found out some things about this team," described skipper Shawn Laferty. "Sunday's blowout kind of opened some eyes. But in this game, you learn more from losses than wins. This (tournament) serves as a great learning tool before we play the 14s Tournament in Brooksville. It really showed what we're capable and not capable of doing."
In the Game 1 victory over Spring Hill, Springstead rapped 12 hits led by Ashton's 2-for-5, highlighted by a RBI double for the game-winner.
Marrone helped his cause going 2-for-4 with two singles and a game-high three RBI.
Robert Bunyon twirled a two-hit gem against West Seminole in the second game, 9-1.
According to Coach Laferty, "Bunyon demonstrated the kind of ability he has against a very good team. His performance was the highlight of the tournament."
Bunyon needed only 92 pitches in his complete-game effort, scattering two hits and two walks against four strikeouts. At the plate, Bunyon helped himself going 2-for-4 with two singles and two RBI.
Paul Coumoulos led Springstead with a 3-for-4 effort featuring two singles and a double, two runs knocked in and two runs scored.
In Game 3, Winter Haven smacked 13 hits and scored 14 runs in three innings off Kyle Stein. Brett Maharaj raised eyebrows following up with two innings of scoreless relief.
In the 14-1 loss, Springstead was handcuffed to Siem's 2-for-3 effort while Ashton finished 1-for-3 featuring a RBI single.?In the fourth game where Springstead conceded after trailing, Zack Lawrence's RBI single plated Coumoulos for the local's only run.
Dixie Boys 15-U State Baseball Tourney Recap
at Springstead High School
Hernando 18, Ridge Manor 2
West Seminole 31, Wahneta 0
Spring Hill 13, Winter Haven 9
Springstead 10, Spring Hill 9
West Seminole 4, Hernando 3
Ridge Manor 11, Wahneta 9 (8)
Spring Hill 9, Hernando 0
Winter Haven 16, Ridge Manor 3 (5)
Springstead 9, West Seminole 1
Spring Hill 7, West Seminole 6
Winter Haven 13, Springstead 1
Winter Haven 6, Springstead 1 (4 Innings/game called due to rain)
Spring Hill vs. #Winter Haven (rained out)
# NOTE - Winter Haven and Spring Hill named co-champions
2013 Final Dixie Boys 15-U State Baseball Tournament
at Springstead High School
1. Winter Haven* 3 1 .750 45 18
1. Spring Hill* 3 1 .750 38 25
3. West Seminole 2 2 .500 41 18
3. Spring Hill-Springstead 2 2 .500 21 29
5. Brooksville-Hernando 1 2 .333 21 16
5. Ridge Manor 1 2 .333 16 43
7. Wahneta 0 2 .000 16 42
* Denotes qualifies for 15-U Regional Tournament on June 20 at Ozark, Ala.