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Monday, Mar 02, 2015

Spring Hill's quest for sixth straight title begins

Hernando Today correspondent


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Similar to the Juniors Boys, the Dixie Senior Boys (age 14) All-Stars District 6 Tournament will also begin Saturday morning at Brooksville's Ernie Wever Youth Park.

The six-team field features host Brooksville, San Antonio, Spring Hill, Bushnell, Wesley Chapel and Wildwood in a double-elimination format expected to conclude Thursday (weather permitting).

Going in, the district's top two finalists will advance to the July 20 Seniors Boys State Tournament in Sebring.

Since 2001, this has been Spring Hill's most successful age group.

Spring Hill is seeking a sixth straight District 6 title. It has collected seven district championship banners across the past nine summers.

Spring Hill Senior Boys, 43-12 (.782) since 2001, will be guided by veteran skipper Shawn Laferty.

Laferty has three career district titles including the 2010 Senior Boys crown.

Should Laferty's crew win this event, he'd tie the record for most Hernando County District 6 titles since the millennium at four, shared by Brooksville's Gerald Johnson and Spring Hill's Jim Keith and Vito Tambasco Sr.

Since the millennium, Laferty holds the local Dixie Baseball record for most games coached (55), most career wins (40), most wins at states (18), most state championships (two).

Laferty recently guided host Springstead's 15-U All-Stars to a 2-2 slate in Spring Hill. Again he'll be assisted by Dale Ashton and Tony Siem.

Spring Hill's Senior Boys All-Stars feature: 3B/SS/2B Morgan Ashton, SS/OF Stephen Bienstock, P/LF/3B Robert Bunyon, P/CF/3B Paul Coumoulos, SS/C/2B/P Luke Laferty, C/3B Zack Lawrence, CF/LF Brett Maharaj, 1B/P/3B Dominic Marrone, C/RF Nick Nguyen, CF/2B Logan Ross, RF/2B Bodhi Sbashnig, P/1B/RF Noah Siem and P/LF/3B Trevor Vendrone.

Since the 15-U event, Bienstock has replaced Kyle Stein on the active roster.

Vendrone, who suffered shoulder tightness prior to Game 1 at Springstead, is feeling much better, pointed out Coach Laferty.

This group is replete with experience.

In all, there are 10 returning players from last summer's Spring Hill Junior Boys District 6 championship including: Bienstock, Bunyon, Luke Laferty, Lawrence, Marrone, Nguyen, Ross, Sbashnig, Siem and Vendrone.

On the lessons learned from the Springstead event, "Playing with a team full of 14-year-olds at the 15-year-old level has to help the coaching staff," stressed Coach Laferty. "We needed to work and we saw some miscues.

"The errors led to some breakdowns. We had a couple bad innings," pointed out Laferty. "Sometimes, that's all it takes for an avalanche to hit."

Spring Hill will rest its title hopes on its mound staff featuring: Bunyon, Coumoulos, Marrone, Siem and Vendrone.

"It hurt not having Vendrone for the entire tournament," pointed out Coach Laferty. "And we never inserted Paul on the hill, either. Our starting pitching is definitely our strength."

Another bright spot is catcher. Behind the dish, look for Nguyen, Luke Laferty and Lawrence to split time.

Coach Laferty has penciled in Bienstock at shortstop, his son Luke at second and Marrone at third.

"Those three guys make up a pretty solid infield," noted Coach Laferty.

Coach Laferty was not pleased with his outfield play during the Springstead tournament.

"As a whole we played too deep," he said. "We allowed too many bleeders to drop in. Ernie Wever isn't as big a park as Springstead, so I think we'll be fine this time."

Laferty looks to employ Coumoulos in center, Ross in right and Maharaj or Sbashnig in left.

Offensively, Springstead batters only fanned six times across four games.

"We did a great job of putting the ball in play," said Coach Laferty. "If we keep the strikeouts down, who knows how many more runs we could score?"

Spring Hill opens the tourney against nemesis Brooksville at 11 a.m. today.

"The cards are on the table starting at 11 o'clock," forecasted Laferty. "It's tough to be the favorite. We know we can't afford a (mental) letdown.

"We've got nothing but respect for Brooksville," detailed Coach Laferty. "I see a battle down to the wire. The key is simple: which pitchers can shut down the other team."

On the importance surrounding Game 1, "The expectations are high for us. We've got to put this on our backs," he said. "It's a given that you've got to go out and get Game 1. Now, in the past have we dropped a game and still won? Sure. Every game gets a little harder after the first one."

Brooksville is attempting to end a 12-year slide.

The Brooksville Seniors Boys are a combined 22-23 (.489 percent) since 2001. The local nine hasn't raised a District 6 championship banner since Gerald Johnson's 2001 squad.

Brooksville's All-Stars will be guided by veteran mentor Ed Ritter. Since 2001, Ritter is 3-9 lifetime and is seeking his first district title. Ritter will be assisted by Robbie Wardlow and John Sullivan.

This year's 11-member Brooksville Senior Boys All-Stars feature: P/3B Scotty Bierwiler, 2B/SS Kyle Bonak, 2B/RF Clay Everett, P/CF Logan Flood, P/RF Carson Foradas, 1B Trevor Gamble, 1B Jayson Hunter, 2B/LF Travis Patrick, SS/P Travis Ritter, C/P Jacob Sullivan and C/LF Sam Vidal.

Brooksville has four returning all-stars from 2012 including: Bierwiler, Everett, Ritter and Vidal.

Coach Ritter believes the building blocks of the team start with the returning all-stars.

"The experience factor is there," explained Ritter. "Having those kids come back greatly improves our overall talent level."

From an offensive standpoint, "We're going to be able to put the ball in play with guys like Foradas, Bierwiler, Flood and Sullivan," noted Coach Ritter. "We're fortunate to have some kids with some high school experience under their belts. Those guys have seen decent pitching, so that'll help."

Describing the mound staff, "We have no lefties, but I think we have two number ones, three number twos and a number three on board," declared Coach Ritter. "Travis (Ritter) attacks the hitters and probably shows more composure than anyone else. He can throw any of his three pitches for strikes and he's got good movement.

"Jacob (Sullivan) is a hard-thrower," added Ritter. "Our mantra is pitch to contact and stay composed."

Behind the plate, Brooksville believes it has three interchangeable parts in Vidal, Sullivan and Everett.

In the middle infield, look for Bonak to start at second with Travis Ritter to open at shortstop.

According to Coach Ritter, "Foradas is our swing guy for both positions. I wouldn't hesitate to use him in either spot. All three of those guys are all-around good baseball players."

At first base, Coach Ritter plans on utilizing Gamble and Hunter while Bierwiler and Sullivan are expected to anchor third base.

"Any of our outfielders can go get it. They're very aggressive and communicate real well with each other," noted Coach Ritter. "They've got some pretty strong arms there, too."

Look for Flood to hold down center field with Everett in right and Patrick in left.

On the Hatfields and McCoys-type first-round match-up against Spring Hill, "What's happened in the past is in the past," insisted Coach Ritter. "This team is on a much different maturity level.

"There are a lot of added incentives opening a tournament, especially against Spring Hill," noted Coach Ritter. "We understand the game's importance; nothing's changed about that."

"I really don't have any serious concerns about this team; I feel very confident going into our first game," he said.

On defending the home turf, "We're very comfortable playing at home," acknowledged Coach Ritter. "It's an advantage for us to play at Ernie Wever."

On the tourney favorites, "It should be us and Spring Hill," Ritter replied. "I won't be disappointed if we don't make the (district) final. I will be disappointed if our pitching lets us down."

At a Glance

What - Dixie Senior Boys (age 14) All-Stars District 6 Tournament

Who - Six teams in a double-elimination format including: host Brooksville, San Antonio, Spring Hill, Bushnell, Wesley Chapel and Wildwood. Defending champion is Spring Hill.

Where - Ernie Wever Youth Park

When - Today through Thursday (weather permitting).

At Stake - Top two teams will advance to State Tournament beginning July 20 at Sebring.

2013 Spring Hill Senior Boys (age 14) All-Stars


1 Stephen Bienstock* SS/OF

2 Bodhi Sbashnig* RF/2B

3 Luke Laferty* SS/C/2B/P

4 Logan Ross* CF/2B

5 Brett Maharaj CF/LF

7 Noah Siem* P/1B/RF

9 Trevor Vendrone* P/LF/3B

13 Robert Bunyon* P/LF/3B

23 Morgan Ashton 3B/SS/2B

24 Paul Coumoulos P/CF/3B

25 Dominic Marrone* 1B/P/3B

28 Nick Nguyen* C/RF

77 Zack Lawrence* C/3B

* Denotes 2012 Junior Boys all-star

Head Coach - Shawn Laferty

Assistant Coach - Tony Siem

Assistant Coach - Dale Ashton

2013 Brooksville Senior Boys (age 14) All-Stars


00 Kyle Bonak 2B/SS

2 Sam Vidal* C/LF

3 Clay Everett* 2B/RF

6 Jayson Hunter 1B

7 Travis Patrick 2B/LF

8 Jacob Sullivan C/P

12 Trevor Gamble 1B

18 Carson Foradas P/RF

21 Scotty Bierwiler* P/3B

22 Logan Flood P/CF

99 Travis Ritter* SS/P

* Denotes 2012 Senior Boys All-star

Head Coach - Ed Ritter

Assistant Coach - Robbie Wardlow

Assistant Coach - John Sullivan

By the Numbers: Brooksville Senior Boys (age 14) District 6 Results (2001-12)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2001$+ 4 1 .800 Gerald Johnson

2002 4 2 .667 Ray Croft

2003+ 2 2 .500 Cliff Manuel

2004 1 2 .333 Don Wheeles

2005 1 2 .333 Paul Wernicke

2006 0 2 .000 Jeff Rollins

2007 1 2 .333 Mike Bennett

2008 2 2 .500 Bubba Patterson

2009 1 2 .333 Harry Timmons

2010 2 2 .500 Darren Niethammer

2011+ 3 2 .600 Brent Young

2012+ 1 2 .333 Ed Ritter

TOTALS 22 23 .489 -12-

By the Numbers: Spring Hill Senior Boys (age 14) District 6 Results (2001-12)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2001 1 2 .333 Gus Guadagnino

2002 2 2 .500 Tom Ross

2003 2 2 .500 Bob Shepard

2004$+ 5 0 1.000 Doug DeRespris

2005$+ 5 0 1.000 John Maggard

2006 3 2 .600 Terry Forgach

2007 2 2 .500 Les Homan

2008$$= 4 1 .800 Mike Sollazzo

2009$+ 5 1 .833 Joe Abbadessa

2010$+ 5 0 1.000 Shawn Laferty

2011$+ 5 0 1.000 Vito Tambasco, Sr.

2012$+ 4 0 1.000 Gary Myers

TOTALS 43 12 .782 -12-

+ Denotes state qualifier

$ Denotes district champion

$$ Denotes district/state champion

= Denotes World Series qualifier

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