Spring Hill's vaunted Dixie Softball Ponytails (ages 11-12) All-Stars completed their quest by returning home with the league's second World Series title in three summers.
Like all major achievements, the title itself wasn't the story – it was the journey.
After dropping its second-round contest to Fairview (La.), 2-1, the West Hernando County club did it the hard way – capturing five consecutive elimination games, the final two against Fairview, before trekking back home with the tallest trophy.
In the end, Spring Hill skipper Glenn Primavera, who guided the squad to a 12-1 campaign this summer (one win shy of 2010's perfect 13-0 run), marveled at his team's tenacity.
"After we lost to Louisiana, we knew we had to take advantage of everything that came our way," he recalled. "We desperately needed some 10-run games and we got two. We desperately needed to save our pitching as much as we could – and we did.
"And we really needed to get our confidence back in our bats – that's something we sorely lacked in (the Fairview loss)."
The difference, according to Primavera, was in the details.
"The three games against Louisiana were practically dead even," he described. "Our girls listened and we didn't get rattled. We had to scratch and claw back. They did all the little things they were taught.
"Louisiana let a few things slip through their hands," added Primavera, who concluded his fourth summer at 46-5 (90 percent) overall. "That (mistakes) was the whole difference."
In Game 1 of the tournament versus Baldwin County (Ga.), Spring Hill opened the 11-team tourney on the right foot via a 7-2 nod.
Right-hander Abbey Primavera earned the mound win working the initial four innings, allowing one run (unearned) on three hits. Primavera didn't issue a walk while notching eight strikeouts.
Chayse Skinner followed on the bump hurling the final two frames. Skinner permitted one run and one walk while striking out one.
Offensively, Spring Hill managed eight hits.
The Hernando County club tallied two runs in the second as Skinner's sacrifice bunt plated Paige Pfent, who reached on an error. Madyson Lamp's RBI single scored Cerina Brooks, who had reached on a free pass.
Leading 2-1, Spring Hill added two in the fourth.
Heather Shagoury led off with a single and raced home on Abbey Primavera's subsequent RBI double. Three batters later, Brooks' RBI single plated Primavera, 4-1.
Spring Hill iced the game with three runs in the fifth. Lamp and Miranda Arroyo reached on a pair of Georgia errors. Abby Oliver cracked an RBI single before Megan Nelski delivered a two-run single.
Shagoury paced the winners with a 2-for-2 effort.
In Game 2, Fairview edged Spring Hill, handing the Hernando County's club its first loss this summer after seven straight wins.
Skinner absorbed the mound loss. She worked the first three innings allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and one hit batsman against two strikeouts.
Abbey Primavera pitched two innings and retired all six batters she faced on six sensational strikeouts across 20 pitches.
Fairview hurlers handcuffed the Florida nine to five hits. Bre Blankenship led Spring Hill with a 2-for-3 effort.
Spring Hill's only run arrived in the first frame. Blankenship led off with a screaming double to left. Two batters later, Abbey Primavera's fielder's choice resulted in Blankenship being thrown out at the plate.
Pfent reached on an error before Brooks' rammed a RBI single plating Primavera.
According to Coach Primavera, the game's complexion changed on a poor call in the third inning.
Oliver led off with a single and immediately stole second base. Angelica Stefan followed with an infield single. As Oliver dashed for third, the Fairview first sacker fired to third base.
According to Coach Primavera, the third sacker's swipe tag completely missed Oliver. Yet, the base umpire called her out. Instead of runners at first and third with no outs and a chance to pad the lead, Spring Hill's momentum headed in reverse.
"It was an extremely poor call," recalled Coach Primavera. "I'm right there coaching third base. The throw beat the runner. But the third baseman was five feet in front of the bag. Nobody saw the play better than I did.
"That (call) was a bitter pill to swallow; looking back it took a lot of wind out of our sails." added Coach Primavera.
Thirty minutes after losing to Fairview, Spring Hill returned to the field for its third-round tilt against Halifax National (Va.)
This time, the Florida champs brought their hitting shoes, vanquishing their Virginia counterparts via the 10-run mercy rule in 3 1/2 innings, 12-0.
In the one-sided affair, Blankenship, Shagoury and Pfent each led the victors with 2-for-2 efforts.
A four-run first frame was highlighted by RBI singles by Shagoury, Abbey Primavera and Ashley Kombast along with a RBI double by Pfent.
Spring Hill tallied two runs in the second as Stefan (walk) and Blankenship (single) raced home on Shagoury's two-run single.
The game's knockout arrived behind a six-run third frame.
With the sacks loaded, Lamp smacked a two-run single followed by a RBI single by Oliver, a two-run double by Arroyo and a run-scoring grounder by Nelski.
On the hill, Abbey Primavera earned the win leaving after a first-inning 4-0 run cushion. She again did not allow a walk or a hit against two strikeouts.
Skinner replaced her and worked two innings permitting one hit. She too did allow a walk and fanned three.
Shagoury pitched a scoreless fourth permitting one hit and one walk.
Looking back, Coach Primavera pointed to this game as the tournament's game-changer.
"I was extremely unhappy with the Louisiana game," Coach Primavera said. "But everything seemed to change against Virginia. We came out smoking. After falling to Louisiana we knew every game from that point on was a must game. Our goal was to do whatever was needed to win."
In near-identical fashion, Spring Hill smashed the host team, Hartsville (S.C.), in Round 4 action via the 10-run mercy rule in 3 1/2 innings, 10-0.
The victors amassed nine hits as Brooks and Nelski led the way with 2-for-2 efforts.
Spring Hill erupted for five runs in the second inning.
The uprising featured RBI singles by Skinner and Nelski, and a bases-clearing triple to right field by Arroyo.
A four-run fourth frame pushed the cushion to 9-0. Blankenship and Shagoury singled before Abbey Primavera laced a two-run double to left.
Pfent followed by crushing a two-run homer to straightaway center – some 30 feet over the fence 200 feet away at Byerly Park.
In the bottom of the fourth, Oliver reached on a hit by pitch. She quickly stole second and third before Nelski's bunt single plated Oliver.
On the bump, Shagoury garnered the victory working the first three innings. She allowed two walks and one hit against one strikeout.
Lamp pitched the final frame surviving a bases-loaded situation to preserve the shutout. She walked two and allowed one hit against one strikeout.
The Game 5 tilt against Turbeville (S.C.) served as a tourney semifinal. Spring Hill was restricted to five hits, but managed to eke out its third straight shutout – a 2-0 win.
Abbey Primavera was the main headliner throwing a complete game two-hitter. She walked two against nine strikeouts.
Primavera sent an early message to the South Carolina nine fanning the side in the first inning on 10 pitches.
In a game where no Spring Hill batters had multiple hits, Pfent opened the scoring with a booming solo homer to left-center in the second.
In the fifth, Pfent singled up the middle and cruised into second on a poor relay. After stealing third, the South Carolina catcher's throw sailed into left field allowing Pfent to easily score.
With one hit apiece, Shagoury, Stefan and Blankenship's bunt single accounted for the remainder of the Spring Hill offense.
The scintillating sixth game saw Spring Hill rally from three deficits before solving Fairview in the bottom of the eighth, 5-4.
Trailing 1-0, Spring Hill knotted the score in the bottom of the third.
Skinner opened with a single and promptly stole second base. Lamp sacrificed Skinner to third base before scoring on Oliver's RBI single.
Down 3-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, Spring Hill tied matters with two clutch runs.
Oliver and Arroyo led off with singles before Nelski advanced each runner into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Here, the team's 12th batter in the lineup, Stefan, cracked a two-run single to left field to send the game into extra innings.
Down 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Spring Hill loaded the sacks on a pair of singles by Pfent and Kombast sandwiched between a free pass to Brooks.
With two strikes, Lamp swung early and missed on a change-up in the dirt. The Fairview catcher retrieved the ball and headed to the pitcher's mound in celebration.
Meanwhile, Coach Primavera correctly noted that the Louisiana catcher neither tagged Lamp nor stepped on home plate, nor threw the ball to any of the bases for a force out.
At that precise instant, the coach sent his runners as Pfent raced home untouched.
Afterward, the game officials conferred that Pfent's run counted, 4-4.
Oliver had a chance to win the game, but grounded into a fielder's choice.
With no outs in the bottom of the eighth, Arroyo opened the frame with a single. Nelski delivered another bunt single.
As Arroyo raced to third, a Louisiana defender heaved a relay throw into left field. On the errant throw, Arroyo scored easily.
On the hill, Skinner hurled six innings allowing six hits and three runs (all earned) against one free pass and four strikeouts.
Shagoury, who worked the last two innings, earned the win in relief. Shagoury permitted one unearned run on one hit.
Coach Primavera was still stunned in the aftermath of the comeback.
"The play on Lamp's third strike is the single biggest play I've been involved with in seven years," he said. "I really can't think of a dropped third strike being so odd. All the (Louisiana) catcher had to do was step on the plate and the game was over. Looking back at it, she could have done a lot of things, but she got swept up in the moment."
With the come-from-behind win, Spring Hill forced a winner-take-all, seventh-round tilt with Fairview.
In the nightcap, Spring Hill snapped a 3-all deadlock with three runs in the top of the eighth inning to trim Fairview, 6-3.
Shagoury started on the hill and hurled seven gutsy innings. The right-hander scattered nine hits and three runs (all earned), allowing no walks against two strikeouts.
Shagoury earned the win and Lamp garnered the save by pitching the final frame. Lamp allowed one hit and one walk but struck out the side to close the books.
Spring Hill, handcuffed to six hits and six walks, roared out of the gates.
In a three-run first inning, Blankenship and Shagoury reached on back-to-back singles.
Abbey Primavera followed by smoking a two-run double to left. Pfent's fielder's choice plated Primavera, 3-0.
Fairview chipped away with a single run in the first and tied matters with two runs in the fourth, 3-3.
The Louisiana crew missed a golden opportunity to score in the fifth.
With runners at the corners with no outs, a subsequent liner was snared in the air by Shagoury, who whirled and completed a double play with a relay toss to Abbey Primavera at first.
Fairview's Jordyn Cross then crushed a pitch up the middle that the shortstop Skinner flagged down to snuff out Fairview's last scoring chance.
Spring Hill broke the game open with three runs in the eighth.
Abbey Primavera and Pfent opened the uprising with back-to-back singles. Brooks was walked to load the bases.
Kombast coaxed a key bases-loaded walk to force home Primavera. Skinner followed with a RBI single to score Pfent, 5-3.
After Lamp walked, Oliver's fielder's choice plated Skinner to close the scoring.
Looking back, Coach Primavera had plenty to admire.
"We used up our three best pitchers and still won. I never thought we'd need four pitchers, but we did. We didn't get a hit for six innings in the last game and still won," explained a puzzled Coach Primavera. "What I'm most proud of is I couldn't pin down an MVP. There was no one standout; everybody was.
"After finishing second in the World Series last year, I really thought we'd steamroll this tournament," said Coach Primavera. "But there were several good teams. I have to admit a lot of the pieces fell into place. We didn't win this in a conventional way. A lot of credit belongs to the parents and relatives who absolutely went crazy during our last five games."
As far as the future, "I'll be coaching my younger daughter next year," noted Coach Primavera. "Now, if my older daughter and some of her friends want to continue playing, I wouldn't tell her no."
Spring Hill Ponytails (ages 11-12)
Head Coach: Glenn Primavera
Assistant coaches: Brian Blankenship, Jeff Pfent
Dixie Youth League Girls Softball Ponytails (ages 11-12) All-Stars X-play World Series Recap
at Hartsville, S.C.
Spring Hill 7, Baldwin, Ga. 2
Fairview, La. 2, Spring Hill 1
Spring Hill 12, Halifax National, Va. 0 (3½ Inns.)
Spring Hill 10, Hartsville, S.C. 0 (3½ Inns.)
Spring Hill 2, Turbeville, S.C. 0
Spring Hill 5, Fairview, La. 4 (7½ Inns.)
Spring Hill 6, Fairview, La. 3 (8 Inns.)
Ponytails X-play State Tournament Recap
at Will S. Kendrick Sports Complex in Carrabelle
Spring Hill 3, Belleview 0
Spring Hill 11, Okeechobee 1 (3½ Inns.)
Spring Hill 2, Belleview 0
Ponytails X-play District 4 Tournament Recap
at Oakridge Park in New Port Richey
Spring Hill 12, Wesley Pasco 0 (4 Inns.)
Spring Hill 14, Wesley Chapel 0 (4 Inns.)
Spring Hill 8, West Pasco 1
By the Numbers: Spring Hill head coach Glenn Primavera
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR CLASS W L .PCT RS RA WS
2009 SH Angels 10 2 .833 75 20 2-2
2010 SH Angels 13 0 1.000 104 08 5-0 (1st)
2011 SH Ponytails 11 2 .846 126 10 3-2 (2nd)
2012 SH Ponytails 12 1 .923 93 13 6-1 (1st)
--4-- TOTALS 46 5 .902 398 51 16-5