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Saturday, Feb 28, 2015

Spring Hill rolls out state welcome mat

Hernando Today correspondent


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Starting Saturday, Spring Hill’s Anderson Snow Sports Complex will roll out the welcome mats to Dixie Baseball’s Ozone (ages 11-12) All-Stars State Tournament.

The tourney includes six teams in a five-day, double-elimination format featuring: Lake Placid, Sebring, West Seminole, West Volusia and hosts Spring Hill American and Spring Hill National. The defending champion is West Seminole American.

The event is expected to conclude Thursday (weather permitting) with the newly crowned state champ representing Florida in the World Series Aug. 9-14 in Lexington, South Carolina.

Spring Hill American includes: left fielder/second baseman David Abbadessa, outfielder/infielder/pitcher Jason Bienstock, shortstop/catcher/center fielder Logan Blevens, shortstop/pitcher Dominiq Collura, second baseman Chase Davis, pitcher/catcher/outfielder Ryan Ebberup, first baseman/pitcher/outfielder Johnathan McMath, third baseman/pitcher/outfielder Dylan Najuch, catcher/pitcher/infielder Luis Ortiz, catcher/first baseman Jake Rice, third baseman/pitcher Jaden Rivera and center fielder/pitcher/infielder Zeth Rodriguez.

Ebberup, Davis and Rodriguez are all returning AAA Minors (ages 9-10) All-Stars from 2013.

Spring Hill Dixie Baseball Director Joe Abbadessa will serve as head coach, assisted by Al Blevens and Jason Molka.

Abbadessa is 27-13 (.675) lifetime with two career district titles. He’s 10-7 overall at states and is seeking his first-ever state crown.

In surveying his squad, Abbadessa likes his team’s intensity in practice and believes he has plenty of depth to compete for a state crown.

Conversely, the team’s lack of consistency could be an issue. In scrimmage games, he said, his team would score 20 runs on one day and two the next.

On the rubber, Abbadessa believes he can win the arms race with two topline starters in Collura and Rivera along with McMath, Ortiz, Ebberup, Najuch and Bienstock – who are all athletic in nature.

“We stress that our pitchers work ahead in the count,” emphasized Coach Abbadessa. “Their first pitch has to be a strike.”

Defensively, SH American features four solid backstops in Ortiz, Rice, Ebberup and Blevens.

“There’s no real drop-off with any of those guys,” pointed out Abbadessa.

SH American has solid combinations up the middle with Collura and Blevens at shortstop and Bienstock, David Abbadessa and Davis at second base.

Coach Abbadessa has penciled in McMath, Rice and Ortiz to rotate at first base while Rivera, Najuch and Bienstock occupy third base. The fleet-footed Rodriguez will anchor center field.

Offensively, look for Blevens and Collura to set the table at the top of the lineup for McMath, Rice, Rivera and Ortiz.

“We’ve got a little of everything offensively,” said Coach Abbadessa. “We’ve got some speed up top and we’ve got some power in the middle. And I believe our 6-9 guys are very dangerous.”

SH American opens at 9 a.m. Saturday against West Volusia. West Volusia won this event in 2007-08.

After peering at the brackets, Abbadessa believes all six teams have the ability to win this event, saying, “Sebring won this group two years ago. And Lake Placid beat them for the district title this summer, so they’ll both be tough.

“And West Seminole is always in there, so you know they’ve got another good team,” he added.

“To me, Game 1 sets the tone,” detailed Coach Abbadessa. “It’s a bit of a disadvantage in not playing any district games to get to this point. We’ve been sitting idle while the others have played. The key for us is we have to get out of the gate quickly and show no signs of rust.”

SH National will be represented by pitcher/catcher/outfielder Max Ashton, pitcher/right fielder/first baseman Hunter Gillespie, pitcher/catcher/first baseman Joey Hopper, second baseman/outfielder Robby Jobmann, pitcher/catcher/third baseman Kyle Mandes, second baseman/outfielder Virgil T. Matos, pitcher/second baseman/outfielder Davin Melgar, pitcher/second baseman/shortstop Shane Momier, catcher/outfielder Collin Nelson, pitcher/shortstop Chris Perdomo first baseman/outfielder Philip Scalise and third baseman/outfielder Locke Weissman,

Hopper and Mandes are returning AAA Majors (ages 11-12) All-Stars while Weissman is a returning Minors All-Star.

First-year Virgil A. Matos will serve as head coach, assisted by Jason Nelson and Chad Weissman.

At first glance, Coach Matos believes he’s surrounded by talent. He said his team can make all the plays, has plenty of good arms and can pick it defensively.

On the eve of states, Matos’ lone concern revolves around players backing up plays.

On the bump, Matos’ entirely right-handed staff is headed by Mandes followed by Gillespie and Ashton, while Perdomo, Momier and Hopper are available in relief.

“We preach to our guys to throw strikes and keep the ball down in the zone,” pointed out Coach Matos. “We won’t win this tournament if we walk people all over the place. Our pitchers have to trust their defense.”

Outlining SH National’s defensive alignment, look for Mandes, when he’s not pitching, to rotate with Ashton behind the plate.

Up the middle, SH National expects to utilize Momier at second base and Perdomo at shortstop. Though they arrived from two different recreation teams, they both work well together, noted Coach Matos. An additional bonus, both players are flexible in playing either shortstop or second.

Hopper, Gillespie and Scalise are penciled in to play first base with Weissman and Mandes splitting third base.

Melgar, who is highly regarded for his speed and strong arm, will anchor center field.

At the plate, SH National’s lineup card begins with Perdomo and the left-handed hitting Nelson.

“Those two guys have earned the right to hold down the first two spots,” declared Coach Matos.

Look for Hopper, who is described as the team’s best hitter, Mandes, Momier and Ashton to make up the heart of the lineup.

Coach Matos admits not playing districts prior to states hasn’t helped his team’s development.

“Not playing has hindered us,” said Matos. “We played some scrimmage games which have kept our kids engaged, but there’s nothing like live bullets from game situations.”

SH National opens at 11:30 a.m. Saturday against always-tough Sebring.

“At this point, I don’t know much about Sebring or any of the other teams, except Spring Hill American,” noted Coach Matos. “Joe (Abbadessa) has one of the best teams around.”

On the importance of Game 1, “There’s no doubt we have to win that game,” explained Coach Matos. “I have confidence in our kids. But the boys need to believe in themselves, too; that all stems from winning that first game.”

At a Glance

What – 9th annual Dixie Baseball Ozone (ages 11-12) All-Stars State Tournament.

Who – Six teams in a double-elimination format featuring: Lake Placid, Sebring, West Seminole, West Volusia, and hosts Spring Hill American and Spring Hill National. Defending champion is West Seminole American.

Where – Anderson Snow Sports Complex.

When – Saturday through Wednesday (weather permitting).

At Stake – State champion represents Florida in World Series Aug. 9-14 in Lexington, South Carolina

By the numbers: Past Ozone (ages 11-12) All-Stars State Champions (2006-13)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2006 Marianna

2007 West Volusia American

2008 West Volusia American

2009 Sebring

2010 Sebring

2011 Sebring

2012 Sebring

2013 West Seminole American


2014 Spring Hill American Ozone (ages 11-12) All-Stars


1 Chase Davis* 2B

2 David Abbadessa LF/2B

3 Logan Blevens SS/C/CF

5 Dylan Najuch 3B/P/OF

7 Zeth Rodriguez* CF/P/INF

10 Jake Rice C/1B

13 Jaden Rivera 3B/P

15 Johnathan McMath 1B/P/OF

21 Dominiq Collura SS/P

23 Jason Bienstock OF/INF/P

28 Ryan Ebberup* P/C/OF

42 Luis Ortiz C/P/INF

* Denotes returning AAA Minors All-Star.

Head Coach – Joe Abbadessa

Assistant Coach – Al Blevens

Assistant Coach – Jason Molka

2014 Spring Hill National Ozone (ages 11-12) All-Stars


3 Hunter Gillespie P/RF/1B

8 Max Ashton P/C/OF

12 Philip Scalise 1B/OF

18 Shane Momier P/2B/SS

21 Virgil T. Matos 2B/OF

22 Joey Hopper P/C/1B

28 Chris Perdomo P/SS

34 Locke Weissman* 3B/OF

42 Kyle Mandes* P/C/3B

52 Davin Melgar P/2B/OF

67 Robby Jobmann 2B/OF

99 Collin Nelson* C/OF

* Denotes returning AAA Minors, AAA Majors All-Star.

Head Coach – Virgil A. Matos

Assistant Coach – Jason Nelson

Assistant Coach – Chad Weissman

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