SPRING HILL – Spring Hill American skipper Joe Abbadessa can rest easier now that his baseball team finally reached the top of the podium.
In his fifth Dixie Baseball state championship tournament – the 9th annual Ozone (ages 11-12) All-Stars at Spring Hill’s Anderson Snow Sports Complex – Coach Abbadessa’s crew completed a five-game sweep late Wednesday evening, but not without any drama.
Down 4-2 entering the bottom of the fifth inning to gritty West Seminole, Spring Hill American rallied for six runs on four hits against tiring southpaw Dylan Brazil to hoist its first-ever championship banner in this age group, 8-4.
Until the fifth, Brazil had thrown 75 pitches and had survived five hits and scattered two runs, stranding six Spring Hill runners on base.
Brazil (0-1) opened his last inning of work with a bad omen walking Spring Hill’s ninth batter on four pitches, David Abbadessa.
Spring Hill’s Logan Blevens, who was charged with two errors at shortstop in the fourth, followed with a full-count free pass. A pair of wild pitches moved the runners into scoring position.
With rhythmic chants of “Spring Hill Baseball!” emanating from the stands, right-hander Dominq Collura whacked a 1-0 offering to right-center for a two-run double, plating courtesy runner Zeth Rodriguez and Blevens, 4-4.
With one out, Jake Rice punched an RBI single to left-center plating Collura. Luis Ortiz laced an RBI double to right-center scoring Rice.
On a pitch that skipped to the backstop, Ortiz attempted to score from third base, but was cut down on a bang-bang relay throw from catcher Cameron Krewinghoven to Brazil.
With two outs, Jaden Rivera coaxed a key free pass – Brazil’s game-high sixth of the game.
On the next pitch, Jason Bienstock became a folk hero by launching a two-run homer – his first of the tournament and his team’s 10th overall – to close the books.
While Brazil seemed to tire out, Collura appeared stronger as the game progressed. He retired the last seven batters he faced.
Collura earned his second tournament victory behind a complete-game six-hitter. In all, he faced 28 batters yielding four runs (two earned) along with two walks against a game-high nine strikeouts.
West Seminole (2-2 states, 4-3 overall) initially dented the scoreboard in the first inning. After Brazil reached on a fielder’s choice, Maverick Stallings clubbed an RBI double to right-center.
On the first pitch of the second frame, Josh Roberts blasted a solo homer, 2-0.
The hosts bounced back with a pair to tie matters in the second.
With one out, Bienstock was plunked by a pitch. Chase Davis lined a single to left that was muffed by the left fielder permitting runners to end up at second and third.
David Abbadessa coaxed the first of his two pivotal walks to load the sacks. The first of five Brazil wild pitches permitted Bienstock to race home.
Ryan Ebberup followed with a textbook squeeze bunt down the first-base line, knocking in Davis, 2-2.
In the fourth, Krewinghoven and Luke Heyman both scored unearned runs on a pair of Spring Hill’s miscues to build a 4-2 cushion.
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West Seminole’s skipper Euell Stallings, whose team suffered its first state loss Monday night to SH American 17-0, afterward gave props to both teams.
“The boys played hard,” he said. “It was a great game. We’re one of the youngest teams here. Most of our guys are 11. I thought coming in we were a little overmatched.”
On the game’s difference, “It was their size, strength and experience. They got the testosterone going late in the game,” noted Coach Stallings.
“Spring Hill has great depth in their pitching and they have some great hitters,” he added. “But I’m proud of how our boys stayed in the game. I have no regrets.”
As Spring Hill outscored its opponents, 54-16, Coach Abbadessa became the 12th Hernando County mentor to collect a DYB state title dating back to the second Eisenhower administration in 1959.
Wednesday night’s state crown serves as Spring Hill’s 11th overall – all since 2005.
With the win, SH American will advance to the World Series Aug. 9-14 at Lexington, S.C.
“I thought the difference tonight was we kind of wore them down,” explained Coach Abbadessa, who was 10-7 overall at states before this week’s six-team, double-elimination event. “The big thing was their pitcher was at 75 pitches going into the last inning. We were hoping we could get to their bullpen.”
Asked to describe the six-run fifth inning rally, “It started with a walk to our No. 9 batter, David (Abbadessa). He’s an on-base machine,” said his proud father. “Then it seemed like it was a clutch hit after clutch hit. Our big guys in the middle of the lineup did the damage.”
Coach Abbadessa didn’t miss a chance to praise Collura, saying, “He battled from the first inning on. He had to. Give credit to West Seminole, there aren’t too many people who have squared up on Dominq’s pitches and they did so a couple of times. They did a great job of pitch recognition.
“It just seemed the longer the game went the more competitive Dominq got,” added Abbadessa. “He pitched a great game against a very gutsy West Seminole team.”
On becoming one of only 12 mentors to claim a state crown, “The first one is always the hardest,” said Coach Abbadessa. “Right now, I couldn’t be happier. This team was three years in the making. Each year we got closer and closer to our goal.
“I thought last year, this team would come back this year and get the job done,” said Abbadessa. “Tonight, we did a lot of the little things it takes to win ballgames and this team jelled. There are no individuals here; one person didn’t win this title.”
Reflecting back at Spring Hill’s lone tater, “I really thought the outfielder was going catch the ball,” recalled the 12-year-old Bienstock.
The 12-year-old Ortiz, who reached base three times going 2-for-2 plus a walk, admitted, “Bienstock’s homer was major. It lifted up the whole team. The homer gave us energy.
“But Dominq pitched a great game, too. It was fun catching him tonight,” he added. “Winning this Ozone Tournament was awesome.”
“I had my hands full with West Seminole,” explained the 12-year-old Collura. “They’ve got some hitters. Against good teams, you’ve got to mix up your pitches.
“As the game went along, I was getting more and more pumped up,” described Collura, who helped himself at the plate going 2-for-3. “Bienstock’s homer was nasty. Those extra two runs were big. It was huge to win this for the first time.”
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In Saturday’s opening round, SH American trimmed West Volusia, 9-1.
Buoyed by a six-run first inning rally, Collura departed the mound with an 8-0 cushion after three innings. In all, Collura allowed one hit and issued one walk against three strikeouts.
Bienstock hurled the final three frames permitting one run on two hits with one walk against three punch-outs.
Offensively, Collura, Rivera, Ortiz and Rice all finished 2-for-3. The quartet combined to score six runs and drive in six.
The early damage arrived in the first frame as Blevens walked and Collura singled before Jonathan McMath walked to load the sacks. Rice followed with team’s first bomb, a line-shot grand slam.
Not to be outdone, Rivera and Ortiz followed with back-to-back clouts, 6-0.
In Game 2 on Sunday, SH American outhit Spring Hill National, 10-3, to win easily, 10-4.
Ebberup opened on the bump and hurled the first four innings departing with an 8-1 lead. Ebberup allowed one run on two hits and one walk against six strikeouts.
Dylan Najuch relived Ebberup and pitched a scoreless fifth before not being able to retire a batter in the three-run SH National sixth. He finished his stint with three walks against two punch-outs.
Rodriguez hurled the last inning permitting one hit against one strikeout.
At the plate, Blevens paced the hosts with a fine 3-for-3 effort, plus a walk. He scored twice and knocked in a run.
McMath and Rice each finished 2-for-3 with four combined singles, one run scored and four RBI.
In the two-run first inning, McMath drove in the first run behind an RBI single while Rice followed with a run scoring fielder’s choice. In the third, Rice drilled an RBI single, 3-0.
In the pivotal five-run fifth, Ebberup singled and David Abbadessa walked before Blevens lined a shot off the opposing pitcher for an infield single. Collura promptly cleared the bases with a three-run double.
McMath singled before a wild pitch permitted Collura to scamper home. Rice laced an RBI single to score McMath, 8-1 SH American.
In Game 3, SH American crushed West Seminole in 2½ innings behind an 11-hit barrage, 17-0.
Rivera threw three innings to earn his first win. Rivera yielded two hits and didn’t issue a walk against four strikeouts.
At the plate, Collura went 2-for-2, plus a walk, scored twice and drove in a run.
Davis was equally effective going 2-for-2, featuring a two-run double and three-run homer besides scoring two runs.
In a momentum-swinging six-run first frame, Collura belted a one-out solo homer to center. McMath followed with a tater to right-center.
Rice and Ortiz walked before Rivera reached on a fielder’s choice. Bienstock rapped an RBI single scoring Ortiz before Davis unloaded a three-run clout over the left-field fence.
When the dust settled following an 11-run second inning, Collura, McMath, Ortiz, Rivera, Bienstock and Davis had each plated a game-high two runs.
After getting rained out Tuesday, SH American solved Lake Placid early Wednesday evening in Game 4, 10-7.
For the Highlands County crew, Patrick Hely went 4-for-4 highlighted by a double while Roystan Daley finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored highlighted by a two-run homer.
Najuch departed after the first two frames ahead, 4-1. Najuch allowed one unearned run on three hits and four walks against four strikeouts.
Ebberup worked the next 2 1/3 innings surrendering two unearned runs on four hits and three walks against one punch-out.
Lake Placid closed what was once a 9-1 deficit to 10-7 as Rivera struggled with his control going two-thirds of an inning and was touched up for four runs on three hits, one walk and one hit batter.
Bienstock earned the save retiring three of the five batters he faced. He permitted one hit and issued one walk.
Lake Placid hurt its chances by stranding a game-high 14 runners, including the bases loaded three times.
The defensive web gem arrived courtesy of Bienstock in right field. With the bases loaded in the top of the third, Cody Carpenter ripped a sinking liner to right that Bienstock plucked off the grass and fired back to first base for the game’s only double play.
In SH American’s 12-hit attack, Davis finished a team-best 3-for-3 and scored twice.
Not to be outdone, Rivera, Ortiz and Rice each finished 2-for-3. While Rice scored three times, Ortiz knocked in five runs.
Ortiz deposited a three-run homer in a four-run fourth followed by Rivera’s solo blast to left field.
Davis rapped SH American’s third homer of the game with a line drive sprayed down the left-field line in the fifth.
Spring Hill American 8, West Seminole 4
123 456 R H E
WS 110 200 – 4 6 1
SHA 020 06x – 8 9 2
WS – Brazil, Pikalew (5) and Heyman and Krewinghoven (5).
SH – Collura and Ortiz.
W – Collura (2-0). L – Brazil (0-1).
2B – M. Stallings (WS); Collura, Ortiz (SHA).
HR – Roberts (WS); Bienstock (SHA).
Records – West Seminole (2-2 states, 4-3 overall), Spring Hill (5-0 states, 5-0 overall).
2014 9th annual Dixie Baseball O-Zone (ages 11-12) State Tournament Recap
at Spring Hill’s Anderson Sports Complex
Spring Hill American 9, West Volusia 1
Spring Hill National 8, Sebring 7 (8 Innings)
West Seminole 8, Lake Placid 7
West Seminole – bye
Lake Placid – bye
West Volusia 15, Sebring 3
Spring Hill American 10, Spring Hill National 4
Spring Hill National – bye
Lake Placid 11, West Volusia 10
Spring Hill American 17, West Seminole 0 (2½ Innings)
West Seminole 10, Spring Hill National 0
Spring Hill American 10, Lake Placid 7
Spring Hill American 8, West Seminole 4
2014 Final 9th annual Dixie Baseball O-Zone (ages 11-12) State Tournament Standings
at Spring Hill’s Anderson Sports Complex
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Spring Hill American* 5 0 .000 54 16
2. West Seminole 2 2 .500 22 32
3. Lake Placid 1 2 .333 25 28
4. Spring Hill National 1 2 .333 12 27
5. West Volusia 1 2 .333 26 15
6. Sebring 0 2 .000 10 22
TOTALS (6) 10 10 .500
* Denotes advances to Aug. 9-14 World Series at Lexington, S.C.
All-Time Hernando County Dixie Baseball State Champions (1959-13/54 Seasons)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR TEAM W L .PCT COACH
1981 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 5 1 .833 Ernie Chatman
1982 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 5 1 .833 Ernie Chatman
1982 Brooksville Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 5 1 .833 Chuck Alderman
1983 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 6 0 1.000 Ernie Chatman
1993 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 4 1 .800 Tim Sims
1995 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 4 0 1.000 Tim Sims
1999 Brooksville Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 5 1 .833 Tim Sims
2000 Brooksville Majors (ages 17-19) 4 0 1.000 Tim Sims
2005 Brooksville Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 4 1 .800 Tim Sims
2005 Spring Hill National AAA Minors (10-U) 7 1 .875 David Smith
2008 Spring Hill Senior Boys (age 14) 5 1 .833 Mike Sollazzo
2008 Spring Hill American AAA Majors (11-12) 6 1 .857 Shawn Laferty
2010 Spring Hill National AAA Majors (11-12) 6 0 1.000 Al Sorrentino
2010 Spring Hill Pre-Majors (ages 15-16) 4 1 .800 Frank Vitale
2011 Spring Hill National AAA Majors (11-12) 7 0 1.000 Shawn Laferty
2011 Spring Hill Junior Boys (age 13) 5 0 1.000 Jeff Hamilton
2013 ## Spring Hill Boys 15-Under 3 1 .750 Anthony DiSciascio
2013 Spring Hill American AAA Minors (10-U) 6 0 1.000 Erik Andress
2013 Spring Hill Senior Boys (age 14) 6 0 1.000 Shawn Laferty
2014 Spring Hill American Majors Ozone (ages 12-13) 5 0 1.000 Joe Abbadessa
TOTALS (20) —12—
## Denotes co-state champions with Winter Haven