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Friday, Mar 27, 2015

Spring Hill seeks more district hardware

Hernando Today correspondent


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Host Spring Hill seeks to extend its eight-year mark of at least one district champion this weekend at Anderson Snow Sports Complex.

The field for the Dixie Softball All-Stars District 4 Tournaments includes Brooksville, Wesley Chapel and West Pasco along with the host in Darlings (ages 7-8), Angels (9-10), Ponytails (11-12) and Belles (13-15) competition.

Each of the district champions advance to the State Tournaments running July 10-14 at Okeechobee.

The double-elimination event is expected to begin at 6 p.m. tonight and conclude Sunday afternoon, weather permitting.

Last summer’s lone district title for the Spring Hill program was earned by Nik Gilleo’s Darlings, going unbeaten (3-0).

This year’s Darlings feature: third baseman/pitcher Alexis Adelman, second baseman Kamryn Baker, outfielder Jaiden Chechile, shortstop Keeliana Doran, right fielder Aryanna Eliopoulos, left fielder Mackenzie Eland, catcher/outfielder Hailie Krieg, right fielder Bella Meredith, pitcher/third baseman Zoey Primavera, outfielder Ashlynn Senter, outfielder Sarah Tipton and first baseman Makayla Way.

First-year Chris Way, the former Hudson and Ridgewood High standout pitcher, will serve as head coach assisted by Kris Baker, Joe Ficarrotta and Dan Tipton.

Coach Way’s club features three returning Darlings All-Stars: Adelman, Chechile and Primavera.

On his initial thoughts, Coach Way believes his team is scrappy in nature, has plenty of speed along its infield and outfield, and doesn’t possess as many outstanding hitters as he’d prefer.

Another plus, according to Way, is his team displays a lot of camaraderie for such a young team.

Offensively, Coach Way’s lineup card isn’t set but he insists he has four potential leadoff batters in Baker, Senter, Doran and Chechile. He’s penciled in Adelman, Way and Primavera at the heart of the lineup.

On defense, Way’s club is flexible with the ability to swap out positions without a significant loss in personnel.

“These kids are adapting to 17,000 different situations toward groundballs and fly balls,” explained Coach Way, a three-time All-Sunshine Athletic Conference All-Star (1998-00). “This group has really quick feet, but fly balls are always an issue.”

In Game 1, Spring Hill will open at 6 p.m. today against always-tough West Pasco.

“The first game is huge,” detailed Coach Way. “You either set the tone (with a win) or work from that game. There have been plenty of teams to win out of the loser’s bracket, but our kids are jacked about playing.”

According to Coach Way, the keys to repeating as district champion rest with, “Hustle and overcoming the heat. The talent is there. It’s all about who shows up on game day.”

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Last summer, Spring Hill’s Angels were shown the door at the District 4 Tournament after two tilts. In all, Spring Hill tallied five runs, but yielded 13.

This year’s Spring Hill Angels feature: third baseman/outfielder Kaitlyn Black, shortstop/second baseman/outfielder Faith Budlove, pitcher/shortstop Jennifer Hackett, second baseman/outfielder Alexis Lendo, outfielder Karlee Plensdorf, pitcher/second baseman/outfielder Victoria Ratigan, second baseman/outfielder Ava Rozsa, catcher/outfielder Sabrina Sessa, first baseman/outfielder Kelsey Shumate, outfielder Alexis Spring, catcher/outfielder Mariah Spring and first baseman/outfielder Ayssa Wheeler.

Scott Budlove returns at the helm and will be assisted by Kerri Lendo and Joe Ratigan. Budlove guided the 2011 Spring Hill Belles to a 1-2 slate during states.

Coach Budlove has four returning players in Faith Budlove, Hackett, Ratigan and Sessa.

At first glance, Coach Budlove believes he has several interchangeable parts with several players who can play different positions at a moment’s notice.

Budlove’s club also has some speed and the players all know each other well.

On the rubber, Budlove’s district title hopes rest with two solid right-handers: Ratigan and Hackett.

Ratigan is all about control, explained Coach Budlove, while Hackett brings the heat.

Coach Budlove stresses to his pitchers to utilize the entire strike zone and force their opponents to earn their hits.

Along the defensive alignment, Sessa and Mariah Spring will share the catching duties as will Rosza and Ratigan at second base.

Faith Budlove is expected to handle shortstop with Wheeler anchoring first base and Black at third.

Center field will feature an expected rotation of Sessa, Lendo and Alexis Spring.

“We’re platooning our outfield this year,” insisted Coach Budlove. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well we’ve hit the cutoffs with different people in there. Hopefully, that will allow us to play a lot smarter out of the gate.”

At the top of the batting lineup look for Faith Budlove and Ratigan – who are a combination of speed and contact hitting. The heart of the lineup is expected to showcase three more contact hitters in Black, Hackett and Lendo.

“We’re set up for speed and power,” emphasized Coach Budlove. “I’m very confident in our hitting, especially in our top six.”

Spring Hill’s Angels debut at 6 p.m. today against stout West Pasco.

“The first game is huge for so many reasons,” noted Coach Budlove. “It’s not only our first game, but we’re at home and we’re playing a fantastic program in West Pasco. Game 1 will basically tell us what we can do.

“These kids have been working their tails off,” added Coach Budlove. “The key for us is to win one inning at a time.”

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Last summer marked the first time in six seasons a Hernando County Ponytails team did not hoist a district championship trophy.

Under skipper Paul McGee, Spring Hill exited behind a 1-2 run at Wesley Chapel. Wesley Chapel handed Spring Hill both of its losses: 6-1 and 6-2.

This year’s team features: outfielder Raquel Camuglia, infielder Ashley Drewal, outfielder Morgan Johnson, pitcher/infielder Alyssa Kelly, infielder Hayden Kimbrough, infielder Cecilia McGee, infielder Mackenzie McIntyre, outfielder Lourdes Penichet, pitcher/infielder Hannah Rizzuto, pitcher/infielder Audrey Selby, outfielder Serena Stifanic and outfielder Tiana Stifanic.

Coach McGee returns to the controls assisted by Scott McIntyre and Frank Rizzuto.

McGee’s club will be bolstered by the return of seven All-Stars including: Johnson and Tiana Stifanic (Angels), and Kelly, Cecelia McGee, McIntyre, Rizzuto and Selby (Ponytails).

According to Coach McGee, the seven returning All-Stars give his team a boast in terms of continuity.

In general terms, Coach McGee believes he has strong pitching, a solid defense and much-improved contact hitting.

Though Coach McGee says his team lacks a dominant number one hurler, he’ll rely on Kelly, Rizzuto and Selby. Kelly is the hardest-throwing pitcher and throws a “heavy ball,” the coach said.

Rizzuto has been clocked about eight miles per hour slower than Kelly. Selby throws about five miles per hour slower than Rizzuto, but is described by Coach McGee as a “pitching machine, who moves the ball around the plate.”

Coach McGee emphasizes to his pitching staff, “We can’t defend walks or allow passed balls.”

McGee’s defensive alignment is predicated on the use of two strong-armed catchers in Rizzuto and Kelly.

Look for Kimbrough and Selby to split time at second base while Cecilia McGee anchors shortstop. McIntyre, a converted second baseman will hold down third base while Drewal holds down first base. Camuglia and Johnson are penciled in to share time in center field.

According to Coach McGee, the team’s defensive strength lies in its overall ability to break onl and speed to the ball.

McGee’s lone concern lies with its converted infielders playing outfield and making precise cutoff throws.

At the plate, Coach McGee didn’t hesitate indicating that Selby and Rizzuto would serve as team’s top two hitters followed by Kelly, the left-handed hitting Johnson and McIntyre.

“This group is older and stronger,” noted Coach McGee. “We didn’t strike out much last year and we were much more aggressive during the regular season this year.”

Spring Hill will be unveiled at 6 p.m. tonight against Brooksville.

“Friday night is a gigantic game,” said Coach McGee. “With a win, we get to relax and watch Saturday morning’s action. We know what we need to do. A win puts us in the position we want to be in.”

In looking toward playing in the title game, “I have confidence in our pitching and defense,” McGee said. “Putting the ball in play in the outfield will be the key.”

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Similar to the Ponytails, the Spring Hill Belles fell victim to a 1-2 run last summer.

The last Spring Hill Belles squad to capture a District 4 crown was Louie Caiazzo’s team in 2008.

This year’s Belles include: right fielder Autum Anderson, pitcher/left fielder Sarah Birchill, catcher/second baseman Ciera Doran, pitcher/third baseman Tori Eith, pitcher/third baseman Haily Gilleo, center fielder Katie Guimaraes, catcher/second baseman Hailey Jutting, left fielder Deanna Kelly, right fielder Tori LaCorte, first baseman Taylor Major, shortstop Brooke Spaulding and left fielder Alexis Statuto.

First-year John Anderson will serve as head coach assisted by Glen Garret and Nik Gilleo.

Coach Anderson’s team returns two Belles All-Stars: Autum Anderson and Major.

On his first impressions, Coach Anderson believes he has a well-rounded squad that has a decent chance of winning districts based on its hitting, pitching and solid defense.

On the hill, the Spring Hill’s top hurler is the right-handed Eith.

Behind Eith stand two other right-handers: Birchill and Gilleo. Birchill is very aggressive and throws hard while Gilleo is noted for the number of pitches she can get over the plate.

Along the defensive perimeter, Jutting is penciled in at catcher with Doran at second base and Spaulding at shortstop. Look for Major to hold down first base while Gilleo anchors third. Guimaraes, who specializes on tracking the ball, will man center field.

On the lineup card, look for Eith and Jutting to set the table at followed by a combination of Spaulding, Doran, Birchill and the left-handed hitting Major.

Spring Hill opens at 11 a.m. Saturday against Wesley Chapel.

“Saturday’s opener is very important,” described Coach Anderson. “You want to start off a tournament on the right foot. If you lose, it’s not the end of the world. However, you’d really like to begin play with momentum.”

Anderson pinpointed his keys to success, saying, “We have to come ready to play. Good things can happen when we come in mentally prepared to play.”

At a Glance

What – Dixie Softball District 4 Tournaments

Who – Brooksville, Wesley Chapel West Pasco and host Spring Hill.

Where – Anderson Snow Sports Complex.

When – Friday through Sunday (weather permitting)

At Stake – District champion in each division advances to the State Tournaments running July 10-14 at Okeechobee.

2014 Spring Hill Darlings (ages 7-8)


4 Alexis Adelman* 3B/P

7 Ashlynn Senter OF

9 Jaiden Chechile OF

10 Makayla Way* 1B

11 Mackenzie Eland LF

12 Sarah Tipton OF

15 Kamryn Baker 2B

24 Zoey Primavera* P/3B

27 Hailie Krieg C/OF

34 Aryanna Eliopoulos RF

88 Bella Meredith RF

99 Keeliana Doran SS

* Denotes returning Darlings All-Star.

Head Coach – Chris Way

Assistant Coach – Kris Baker

Assistant Coach – Joe Ficarrotta

Assistant Coach – Dan Tipton

2014 Spring Hill Angels (ages 9-10)


2 Alexis Lendo* 2B/OF

3 Faith Budlove SS/2B/OF

4 Alexis Spring OF

5 Ava Rozsa 2B/OF

7 Mariah Spring C/OF

11 Ayssa Wheeler 1B/OF

12 Sabrina Sessa* C/OF

13 Kaitlyn Black 3B/OF

14 Victoria Ratigan* P/2B/OF

21 Jennifer Hackett* P/SS

23 Karlee Plensdorf OF

26 Kelsey Shumate 1B/OF

* Denotes returning Angels All-Star.

Head Coach – Scott Budlove

Assistant Coach – Kerri Lendo

Assistant Coach – Joe Ratigan

2014 Spring Hill Ponytails (ages 11-12)


1 Mackenzie McIntyre* INF

3 Lourdes Penichet OF

4 Hannah Rizzuto* P/INF

7 Cecilia McGee* INF

9 Tiana Stifanic* OF

15 Hayden Kimbrough INF

22 Serena Stifanic OF

24 Raquel Camuglia OF

28 Audrey Selby* P/INF

29 Alyssa Kelly* P/INF

44 Ashley Drewal INF

77 Morgan Johnson* OF

* Denotes returning Angels or Ponytails All-Star.

Head Coach – Paul McGee

Assistant Coach – Scott McIntyre

Assistant Coach – Frank Rizzuto

2014 Spring Hill Belles (ages 13-15)


0 Autum Anderson RF

2 Deanna Kelly LF

4 Tori Eith P/3B

6 Ciera Doran C/2B

15 Brooke Spaulding* SS

18 Tori LaCorte RF

20 Haily Gilleo P/3B

22 C.Katie Guimaraes CF

34 Sarah Birchill P/LF

48 Alexis Statuto LF

63 Taylor Major* 1B

74 Hailey Jutting C/2B

* Denotes returning Ponytails or Belles All-Star.

Head Coach – John Anderson

Assistant Coach – Glen Garret

Assistant Coach – Nik Gilleo

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