SPRING HILL – Spring Hill’s Ponytails (ages 11-12) All-Stars overcame an early case of the yips to rally past West Pasco Sunday afternoon, clinching the Dixie Softball District 4 championship at the Anderson Snow Sports Complex, 10-4.
“(Starting pitcher Alyssa) Kelly was incredible today,” explained Spring Hill head coach Paul McGee. “We played tremendous defense during the tournament. We gave up five runs in three games, but today we came out a little nervous and gave up some easy errors.
“It was a great game. West Pasco is very well-coached and their players were very kind. Give credit to West Pasco, they came in really fired up and took it to us,” recalled Coach McGee. “In the end, I trusted our bats and the end of the lineup came through. (Tiana) Stifanic had two great hits and Raquel Camuglia came through, too. That was every encouraging.”
Savoring his first-ever district title, “Winning the district is amazing,” admitted Coach McGee. “With this group of girls we really don’t have to coach much on game days. They played their hearts out. I couldn’t be more proud.”
With the win, the West Hernando County club’s fifth district title in this age group over the past six seasons, Spring Hill (3-0) advances to the July 10-14 State Tournament at Okeechobee.
McGee’s crew, which overwhelmed Brooksville Friday, 17-0, whipped West Pasco in 3½ innings via the 10-run mercy rule Saturday, 11-1.
It was different story on Sunday as the West Pasco nine took advantage of Spring Hill’s game-high five errors, including two in the first frame to stake the visitors to a confidence-building 2-1 cushion.
Spring Hill initially dented the scoreboard in the top of the first inning as catcher Hannah Rizzuto, who finished a game-high 3-for-3 with three runs scored, raced home on Kelly’s RBI double to the left-center field fence.
Without hitting the ball hard, West Pasco quickly countered. Aiaus Scourlus reached on a bunt single and promptly stole second base.
With Scourlus digging for third base, Samanya Pressler grounded to shortstop Cecelia McMee. McGee’s relay to third sacker Mackenzie McIntyre was offline for the first of two critical errors.
Megnan Borum grounded back to Kelly, whose relay throw to first base sailed permitting Scourlus and Pressler to easily score on the overthrow, 2-1.
Spring Hill broke the game open with five runs on five hits, plus an error off two West Pasco pitchers in the fourth.
The hosts, who outhit West Pasco, 12-5, began the rally innocently with one out behind singles by Audrey Selby and Rizzuto.
Kelly grounded to the third baseman, whose throw skipped past first base permitting Selby and Rizzuto to score.
Morgan Johnson singled up the middle before McIntyre ripped a single to left plating Kelly, 4-2.
Cecelia McGee coaxed a four-pitch free pass off Kenlen Ridenour to load the sacks.
Pressler came on in relief but was greeted by a two-run single by Tiana Stifanic plating Johnson and McIntyre, 6-2.
West Pasco bounced back in the bottom of the frame to score twice.
Briann Anglada (single) and Madelyn Bilich (hit by pitch) scored on a clutch two-out, two-run single by Baylie Gonzalez
Spring Hill tacked on four much-needed insurance runs in the top of the sixth.
With two on and nobody out, Johnson reached on an error by the first sacker allowing Rizzuto to score. Kelly, who reached on a free pass, eventually scored on passed ball, 8-4.
Johnson, who stole second and raced to third on the passed ball, scored on a wild pitch.
Five batters later against West Pasco’s third pitcher, Anglada, Camuglia, hit an RBI single to right-center that plated Stifanic to close the books.
Ridenour (0-1) absorbed the loss facing 18 batters across 3 1/3 innings. Ridenour yielded seven hits and six runs (four earned) with no strikeouts against one walk.
Kelly (3-0) went the distance facing 32 batters in six innings, stranding 10 runners on base.
The right-hander allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits, issued a wild pitch and hit four batters (all on changeups) while not allowing a walk against a game-high eight punch outs.
“I felt pretty good,” pointed out the 12-year-old Kelly. “I trust my defense even after we made some easy errors and gave them some unearned runs. I thought the key was we needed to stay loose. We’re all sisters on this team.”
On the game’s significance, “I’ve been in All-Stars before and I’ve never been on a district championship team,” detailed Kelly. “Winning this is huge. It’s just a great feeling.”
“I thought Alyssa pitched well,” noted the 12-year-old battery mate Rizzuto. “Her changeups were a little off, but the key was we didn’t make a lot of mistakes after the beginning of the game.”
“Alyssa is a great pitcher,” noted the 11-year-old Stifanic. “She pounded the strike zone and yeah, I was a little worried trying by two points after the third (inning).
“Winning districts is huge for me,” she added. “This is the first team I’ve been on to win districts.”
Recapping the tourney, Game 1 featured Spring Hill lashing 20 hits to bop Brooksville via the mercy rule in four innings Friday night.
On the hill, Kelly (1-0) departed after one scoreless inning ahead, 4-0. Selby hurled the final three innings of scoreless relief.
At the plate, Hayden Kimbrough, Johnson and Kelly each finished 3-for-3. The trio combined for five runs scored.
Rizzuto walked twice and finished 1-for-1 with a team-high three runs scored.
In Saturday’s Game 2, Spring Hill jumped ahead with seven runs in the first inning en route to the win over West Pasco.
Kelly twirled all four innings for her second win. Offensively, Kelly went 2-for-2 highlighted by a two-run double in the first inning and a two-run single in the second to finish with four RBI.
Cecelia McGee rapped an RBI single in the first frame and tripled and scored a run in the third finishing 2-for-2.
Kimbrough also went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two RBI while Selby and Rizzuto each finished 1-for-1, plus a walk, and each scored twice.
Spring Hill 10, West Pasco 4
123 456 R H E
SH 100 504 – 10 12 5
WP 200 200 – 4 5 4
SH – Kelly and Rizzuto.
WP – Ridenour, Pressler (4), Anglada (6) and Borum.
W – Kelly (3-0). L – Ridenour (0-1).
2B – Kelly, T. Stifanic (SH); Borum (WP).
Records – Spring Hill (3-0), West Pasco (1-2).
2014 Dixie Softball District 4 Recap
at Spring Hill’s Anderson Sports Complex
Ponytails (ages 11-12)/3 teams
Spring Hill 16, Brooksville 0 (4 Innings)
West Pasco 17, Brooksville 0
Spring Hill 11, West Pasco 1 (3.5)
Spring Hill 10, West Pasco 4