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Spring Hill Ponies complete impressive sweep

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: July 17, 2014 at 09:51 AM

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– Behind a stout defense that converted all 19 chances, a pinch of timely hits and right-hander Alyssa Kelly’s sixth win in six outings, the Spring Hill Ponytails (ages 11-12) All-Stars captured their third state crown in this age division since 2010.

In late Sunday afternoon’s title-clincher at the Okeechobee Sports Complex, Spring Hill skipper Paul McGee’s crew (3-0 states, 6-0 overall) turned back Lake Placid (2-2 states, 4-2 overall) in 4½ innings, 10-0.

To reach the finals, the West Hernando County club opened the three-day event Friday by taking advantage of 14 Okeechobee walks along with a pair of hits by Hannah Rizzuto and Kelly to stagger the hosts in 3½ innings, 17-2.

On Saturday, Spring Hill snapped a tenuous 2-1 cushion with five runs in the bottom of the fifth to back up Kelly’s complete game three-hitter over Belleview, 7-1.

With the state title, Spring Hill will represent Florida in the 3rd annual “X-play” World Series Aug. 1-7 at Ponchatoula, La.

Drenched with a congratulatory ice bath after the three-game brooming, Coach McGee counted his blessings.

“Winning this is so great,” he said. “I’ve coached on and off since I was 21 and this is my first state championship. Nothing compares to this moment. I think all the great competition we saw in the District 4 Tournament prepared us for this tournament.”

On the keys to the tourney, “There were so many things to be proud of,” said Coach McGee. “What did we give up? Something like three runs in three games. We’ve given up 11 runs in six games – that’s outstanding pitching and defense.

“I asked this team to take what was presented,” added Coach McGee. “Offensively, we were patient and we made the other teams work harder. We asked our kids to be a little more selective at the plate. Today, we played small ball real well.

“The early run support was huge and Alyssa (Kelly) just slammed the door,” he added. “She didn’t allow a run in 11 of the 12 innings she pitched.”

From the opposing dugout, Lake Placid’s District 8 champion mentor, Reggie Jones, tipped his cap to Spring Hill.

“We got some people on early, but couldn’t bring them home,” described Coach Jones. “Spring Hill’s pitcher throws real hard. A few of our kids were scared, but we kept our heads up.

“I’m most proud of how we played the whole tournament. This is the second time in three seasons that we’ve finished second,” noted Jones. “I got 100-percent effort from all 12 young ladies and a great coaching staff.

“I have no regrets at all after playing Spring Hill,” he said. “If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would. We’ll be back.”

❖ ❖ ❖

Spring Hill jumped out Sunday to a 3-0 first-inning lead. After Audrey Selby opened the game with the first of six free passes from two Lake Placid pitchers, Hannah Rizzuto followed with an infield single.

A Payton Wright (1-1) wild pitch advanced both runners. Kelly grounded into a fielder’s choice plating Selby.

Morgan Johnson reached on a gorgeous bunt single plating Rizzuto. A stolen base and an error permitted Johnson to race to third. MacKenzie McIntyre squeezed home Johnson with a sacrifice bunt, 3-0.

Another three-run uprising in the third frame upped the ante, 6-0.

With one out, Ashley Drewal and Lourdes Penichet coaxed walks. A wild pitch was followed by a double steal. Selby dropped down an RBI bunt single plating Drewal.

With two outs, Kelly smoked a two-run triple scoring Selby and Rizzuto.

Spring Hill padded its cushion with two runs in the fourth against reliever Kalisha Jones. With one out, a single by Cecelia McGee was followed by a double by Tiana Stifanic.

Kimbrough’s fielder’s choice plated McGee. Camuglia was plunked by a pitch before Drewal coaxed a walk to load the bases. Serena Stifanic was hit by a pitch forcing home her sister, 8-0.

With two outs in the fifth, Kelly looped a leadoff double to right-center. Johnson reached on another bunt single.

On a subsequent double steal, Kelly raced home. As Johnson stole second base, an errant throw skipped into center allowing her to reach third base. An ensuing passed ball permitted Johnson to race home, closing the game in walk-off fashion.

“Winning states is amazing,” said the 12-year-old Selby, who finished 1-for-2 and plated two runs. “Yeah, I was a little nervous coming in until we got our first run.

“Give credit to Alyssa, she pitched amazing.”

“This (winning states) is pretty sweet,” said the 11-year-old Johnson, who finished 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. “This is great because we’ve worked our butts off in practice.”

Johnson sparkled on the game’s web gem when she left her feet on Nitzellie Amaro’s sinking liner to center field to snare the final out of the third inning.

“I remember diving for the ball. No way did I think I was even getting to it,” she recalled. “I was scared to death. After I hit the grass, I turned to look at my glove and there it was.”

Johnson heaped praise on Kelly.

“She’s an amazing pitcher,” she said. “I love her to death. She’s the kind of pitcher who trusts her defense.”

“Alyssa was on it,” declared her 12-year-old battery mate Rizzuto. “She was amazing the entire tournament, but today even her changeups were on. She pitched near her best.”

On Lake Placid, “They were a good team,” she added. “The difference was all the hard work we put in made things kind of come together.”

“I felt like I had good stuff today,” said the 12-year-old Kelly, who helped herself at the plate going 2-for-3 with a game-high three runs knocked in. “Even my changeups were on.

“Lake Placid was a good team. They beat Belleview to get to the finals,” added Kelly. “The key was the early runs; that was huge. I wish we would have scored a few more early on, but that was big. Any time you get up on the other team early, it gives you confidence.

“And then our defense was the story,” Kelly said. “Morgan’s catch was sick. We were all really strong today.”

❖ ❖ ❖

On Friday, Kelly departed after leading 5-0 after the first inning. Selby relieved Kelly and worked the last two innings allowing two runs and three walks against seven strikeouts.

Offensively, Rizzuto and Kelly combined for four hits and five runs scored.

On Saturday, Kelly yielded two walks against a game-high eight punch-outs. In a two-run first inning, Selby and Rizzuto each scored on passed balls.

In the pivotal five-run fifth inning, Johnson reached on a bunt single before McIntyre walked. Cecelia McGee singled to left to load the bases. Tiana Stifanic followed with a two-run single plating Johnson and McIntyre.

Hayden Kimbrough walked to reload the bases. Camuglia followed with an RBI single.

With two outs, Penichet was hit by a pitch to reload the sacks. Selby closed the scoring with an RBI single plating Kimbrough, 7-1.

State Championship

Spring Hill 10, Lake Placid 0 (4½ Innings)

123 45 R H E

LP 000 00 – 0 2 2

SH 303 22 – 10 8 0

LP – Wright, Jones (4) and Wells.

SH – Kelly and Rizzuto.

W – Kelly (3-0 states, 6-0 overall). L – Wright (1-1).

2B – Jones (LP); Kelly, T. Stifanic (SH).

3B – Kelly (SH).

Records – Lake Placid (2-2 states, 4-2 overall), Spring Hill (3-0 states, 6-0 overall).

2014 Final Dixie Softball Ponytails (ages 11-12) “X-play” State Tournament Recap

at Okeechobee Sports Complex


Spring Hill 17, Okeechobee 2 (4½ Innings)

Belleview 10, Lake Placid 0


Lake Placid 9, Okeechobee 7

Spring Hill 7, Belleview 1


Lake Placid 5, Belleview 3


Spring Hill 10, Lake Placid 0 (4½)

2014 Final Dixie Softball Ponytails (ages 11-12) “X-play” State Tournament Standings

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


1. Spring Hill* 3 0 1.000 34 3

2. Lake Placid 2 2 .500 14 20

3. Belleview 1 2 .333 14 12

4. Okeechobee 0 2 .000 9 26

TOTALS (4) 6 6 .500

* Denotes advances to Aug. 1-7 3rd annual “X-play” World Series at Ponchatoula, La.

2014 Darlings (ages 7-8) State Tournament Recap

at Okeechobee Sports Complex


Okeechobee 9, Spring Hill 2

Sneads 15, Belleview 1

Holmes County 12, Wahneta 2


Spring Hill 5, Belleview 1

Sneads 4, Okeechobee 3

Spring Hill wins by forfeit over Wahneta

(Wahneta didn’t have enough players)


Holmes County 6, Sneads 4

Sneads 4, Okeechobee 3

Holmes County 4, Spring Hill 2

2014 Debs (ages 16-19) State Tournament Recap

at Okeechobee Sports Complex


West Pasco 4, Franklin County 3

Okeechobee 8, Wahneta 0


West Pasco 7, Spring Hill 0

Franklin County 7, Wahneta 3


Franklin County 9, Spring Hill 3

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