It has been pointed out over and over again; baseball is a game of inches.
According to Spring Hill’s “O”Zone (ages 11-12) All-Stars skipper Joe Abbadessa, who also serves as Spring Hill Dixie Baseball’s director, Thursday’s night’s winner-take-all World Series final in Lexington, S.C. was the latest case in point.
Muscle Shoals, Ala. generated six first-inning runs – all with two outs – on a throwing error and a subsequent grand slam that ticked off the Spring Hill left fielder’s glove and inched over the fence for a 7-4 win.
After spotting ’Bama six runs, Spring Hill dominated tempo and threatened several times, but the first-inning damage settled the 9th “O”Zone World Series at the Lexington Sports Complex.
“This hurts,” explained Abbadessa after his club finished 4-2 in Lexington and 9-2 this summer. “I thought we were the better team. I realize everybody is going to make a mistake here and there. Our first one was a little more costly. This summer, when we’ve made errors we’ve picked ourselves back up.
“What really hurt was the 221-foot homer (fences are 220 at Lexington) that landed just over the fence,” lamented Abbadessa as his team became the second Spring Hill club to return home as World Series runners-up. “A couple inches made a huge difference.”
Looking out at Alabama, “They’re a solid team. Based on how big they are compared to us, you’d think we’d get intimidated by their size,” noted Abbadessa. “They have seven kids over 5-foot-6, we had three. You’d think down 6-0 in the first inning, we’d throw in the towel in, but that isn’t what happened.
“Give credit to their pitcher, Carson Knight. Two days earlier he went six great innings. Against us, he threw six tremendous innings,” pointed out Abbadessa. “The kid is like the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. He’s a lefty who can command any one of three pitches. He’s as polished a pitcher as we’ve seen.”
On his team’s World Series experience, “I know the boys had a great time,” Abbadessa said. “Sure, the kids weren’t satisfied leaving without the title, but they certainly left everything they had on the field.
“I thought our parents and fans made sure the kids were up for the games,” he added. “I thought we represented ourselves in a top-flight fashion.”
As Spring Hill finished second in Lexington, Luis Ortiz paced the Hernando County crew with 10 hits in 19 at-bats for a sizzling .526 average highlighted by six homers – including four home runs in four consecutive at-bats – and a team-high 11 runs scored and team-leading 14 runs driven in.
Ortiz had help from Collura who batted .450 with nine safeties in 20 at-bats, while Jake Rice finished 8-for-18 (.444), and Rivera and Chase Davis each finished 7-for-16 (.438).
Six different Spring Hill batters clubbed homers as the team clouted 12 round-trippers.
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Team Florida opened the World Series by shredding Baldwin County, Ga. in three innings last Saturday via the 15-run mercy rule, 15-0.
On the bump, Collura yielded two hits and three free passes against six strikeouts.
Ortiz paced Spring Hill’s 16-hit attack going 3-for-3 with a double, three runs scored and three runs batted in.
Collura, Davis and Johnathan McMath each rapped two hits combining for four runs scored and six runs knocked in.
In a six-run first frame, Rice and Ryan Ebberup connected on RBI singles while Ortiz and Davis whacked two-run singles.
In a turn-out-the-lights, nine-run third inning, McMath enjoyed an RBI single while Jason Bienstock drove in two runs with a fielder’s choice and a single. Additionally, Davis roped a two-run double while Ortiz and David Abbadessa each stroked two-run singles.
Tied at 5-all, Florida tallied six runs in the top of the eighth inning to edge Pineville, La. on Sunday evening, 11-6.
Ebberup posted five scoreless innings in relief, permitting four hits and one free pass against five strikeouts.
Collura hurled the last three frames to improve to 2-0 in the tournament. He yielded two hits and one run while not issuing a walk against four punch-outs.
As Florida out-hit the Bayou nine, 12-9, Collura, McMath, Rice and Davis each rapped a team-leading two hits. The foursome combined to score seven runs and drive in six.
Rice launched a three-run homer to left-center in the first frame. Ebberup’s squeeze bunt plated Davis in the second.
McMath socked a solo homer over the center-field fence in the sixth to tie matters at 5.
In the critical sixth, Ortiz set the tone with a two-out, three-run tater. After singles by Rivera and Bienstock, Davis yanked a two-run double. He eventually scored to build an 11-5 lead.
Muscle Shoals dropped Spring Hill into the loser’s bracket Monday night behind a 7-2 win.
Dylan Najuch hurled the final frame not allowing a run despite hitting a batter and permitting a hit against two strikeouts.
As Spring Hill was out-hit, 10-7, Rice led the Hernando County nine going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.
Down 2-0, Najuch dropped down a perfectly executed squeeze bunt to plate Ebberup in the third.
Down 7-1 in the bottom of the sixth, McMath reached on a free pass and eventually scored on Rivera’s fielder’s choice.
Florida out-hit Virginia, 13-5, in Tuesday’s Game 4, a four-inning, mercy-rule shortened 15-5 triumph.
Najuch closed out the game with two scoreless innings of relief. In all he yielded one hit and didn’t issue a walk against three punch-outs.
At the dish, Logan Blevens paced the Hernando County crew with a solid 3-for-4 effort featuring three runs scored and three runs batted in.
Rivera chipped in a 3-for-3 effort with two extra-base hits, two runs scored and two RBI. Collura and Ortiz combined for four hits, five runs scored and four runs batted in.
Spring Hill erased an early 1-0 deficit with a trio of runs in the bottom of the first behind an Ortiz fielder’s choice and RBI singles by Rivera and Bienstock.
In a five-run second inning rally, McMath knocked in a run with an RBI single following Blevens’ two-run bomb to left-center and Zeth Rodriguez’s two-run tater to right-center.
A three-run third was punctuated by Ortiz’s two-run round-tripper to left followed by Rivera’s solo clout, 11-5.
A four-run fifth was highlighted by Ortiz singling and scoring on Rivera’s RBI double, and Davis reaching on an error plating Rivera.
Blevens knocked in his third run with an RBI single and eventually scored as Collura reached on a game-ending error.
On Wednesday, Florida snapped a 4-all deadlock with solo runs in the fourth and sixth innings to stave off Midland, S.C., 6-5.
Najuch hurled two-plus innings of shutout relief. He yielded two hits and no walks against one strikeout.
Collura earned his third World Series triumph working three innings. He permitted one run – on a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth – and didn’t allow a walk compared to three strikeouts.
Offensively, Ortiz paced Hernando County’s 11-hit attack with a historic 3-for-3 effort featuring three runs scored and a tourney-high five RBI. In a Reggie Jackson-like performance, Ortiz smacked three round-trippers in three at-bats.
Bienstock and Davis did their part finishing 2-for-3.
In a four-run first inning, Rivera belted a solo homer over the left-field fence while Ortiz crushed a three-run dinger to right-center.
Ortiz added a solo homer to right-center in the fourth and another solo round-tripper to right-center in the sixth.
In Thursday’s title game, Rice led the Sunshine State crew with a solid 3-for-3 effort behind three singles and one run scored.
Collura helped his own cause going 2-for-3 with two singles.
Down 6-0, Spring Hill tallied a pair of runs in the second as Ortiz launched his fourth homer in four at-bats over the right-center field fence.
Rice singled and eventually scored on pair of passed balls. Najuch (single) and Blevens (walk) both scored on a three-base throwing error by Knight in the third, 6-4.
Despite putting two runners on in the fourth and fifth frames, Spring Hill could not close the deficit.
Alabama tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth to close the books.
Final 9th Dixie Baseball “O”Zone (ages 11-12) All-Stars World Series Results
at the Lexington Sports Complex in Lexington, S.C.
Lexington, S.C. 20, Nashville, Arkansas 10
Muscle Shoals, Alabama 12, Dallas, N.C. 0
Spring Hill, Fla. 15, Baldwin County, Georgia 0
Pineville, Louisiana 6, Lebanon American, Tennessee 4
Midland, S.C. 19, Laurel Jones County National, Mississippi 5
Christianburg, Virginia 18, Paris National, Texas 7
Paris National, Texas 6, Laurel Jones County National, Mississippi 4
Lebanon American, Tennessee 4, Baldwin County, Georgia 2
Dallas, N.C. 9, Nashville, Arkansas 8
Midland, S.C. 11, Christianburg, Virginia 1
Spring Hill, Fla. 11, Pineville, Louisiana 5 (8 Innings)
Muscle Shoals, Alabama 2, Lexington, S.C. 0
Christianburg, Virginia 16, Lexington, S.C. 0
Paris National, Texas 3, Lebanon American, Tennessee 2
Dallas, N.C. 10, Pineville, Louisiana 5
Muscle Shoals, Alabama 7, Spring Hill, Fla. 2
Dallas, N.C. 9, Paris National, Texas 4
Spring Hill, Fla. 15, Christianburg, Virginia 5
Muscle Shoals, Alabama 6, Midland, S.C. 2
Spring Hill, Fla. 6, Midland, S.C. 5
Dallas, N.C. 4, Muscle Shoals, Alabama 3
Spring Hill, Fla – drew bye
Muscle Shoals, Alabama 5, Dallas, N.C. 3
Muscle Shoals, Alabama 7, Spring Hill, Fla. 4
Final 9th Dixie Baseball “O”Zone (ages 11-12) All-Stars World Series Standings
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Muscle Shoals, Alabama 6 1 .857 42 15
2. Spring Hill, Fla. 4 2 .667 53 29
3. Dallas, N.C. 4 2 .667 35 37
4. Midland, S.C. 2 2 .500 37 18
5. Christianburg, Virginia 2 2 .500 40 49
5. Paris National, Texas 2 2 .500 20 33
7. Lexington, S.C. 1 2 .333 20 28
7. Lebanon American, Tenn. 1 2 .333 10 11
7. Pineville, Louisiana 1 2 .333 16 25
10. Nashville, Arkansas 0 2 .000 18 29
10. Laurel Jones Co. National, Miss. 0 2 .000 9 25
10. Baldwin County, Georgia 0 2 .000 2 19
TOTALS (12) 23 23 .500