After 16 games across six days, there was absolutely no doubt which of the nine original AAA Majors (ages 11-12) All-Star teams would capture the District 6 Tournament.
In this double-elimination affair at the Kenny Dixon Sports Complex, host Bushnell led from the opening pitch.
Bushnell head coach Mike Eastburn's club – the nucleus of which finished as state runners-up behind Spring Hill last summer in Lakeland – entered Friday night's title game against Spring Hill National averaging nearly 12 runs per game.
Behind a high-octane offense, Bushnell's 6-foot-1½ right-hander Cornelluis Patterson led the mound exploits with a fine 3-0 record.
Despite the game starting nearly an hour late due to the area's heavy showers, Bushnell not only lived up to its hype – behind a game-high 11 hits, including three homers over the puny 180-foot fences – but needed only 77 minutes to dethrone Spring Hill National via the mercy rule in four innings, 16-0.
Despite the setback, district runner-up Spring Hill National (3-2) will join District 6 champ Bushnell along with third-place Spring Hill American (2-2) and fourth-place San Antonio (2-2) in the Florida State Championship starting July 14 at Brooksville's Ernie Wever Youth Park.
From the visitors' dugout, the difference was crystal clear. Bushnell skipper Mike Eastburn began his analysis on the mound.
"Cornelluis was not near as consistent last year as he's been this year," Eastburn said. "The difference? He's a year older."
For a Bushnell squad that had 11 different players score at least one run and eight players rap at least one hit – Eastburn praised the entire flock.
"All week long it's been a team effort. There are no individuals on this team," he said. "We scored over 60 runs and allowed four against two of the toughest teams here.
"We purposely didn't praise anybody until tonight," noted Eastburn. "Every game there was something that wasn't good enough. … Our expectations (at states) are very high. The majority of this team has played together since they were 8 years old. We even have a couple kids we really haven't even used on the mound much."
"We gave them way too many outs," said first-year Spring Hill National skipper Will Glenn. "What did we have, something like five errors in the second inning (leading to 10 unearned runs)? You can't do that and compete against teams, especially teams that are this good.
"I will say Johnny (Moran) pitched his tail off for us," noted Coach Glenn after his team committed a game-high six errors. "Our bread and butter have been our pitching and defense. It (defense) kind of let us down tonight."
Glenn attempted to describe Bushnell's depth.
"What they do really well is put the ball in play," he said. "They continually put pressure with their bats. The other problem is teams have to find a recipe to deal with Patterson. He's the real deal."
Coach Glenn was asked where Spring Hill National goes from here.
"I'm very proud of this group," he said. "We beat the teams we were supposed to beat to get this far. We don't have any superstars on this team. Heck, we've got six 11-year-olds. The more we play together, the better we're going to be.
"Right now, we have some time to try to shore up our defense and we've got to sharpen some things to be able to face teams like Bushnell."
In last year's state final in Polk County, Patterson suffered self-inflicted wounds in a 7-4 loss.
In a mixed-bag performance across six innings, Patterson faced 35 batters and allowed only two hits. But like many young hurlers he did not have command of his pitches.
All told against Shawn Laferty's state champions, Patterson surrendered seven runs (six earned) on eight walks, four wild pitches and three hit batters besides notching nine strikeouts.
What a difference 11 months has made. On Friday, Patterson faced 12 batters and retired them all.
The only Spring Hill National batter to put the ball in play was shortstop Chris Cesiro, who popped out to first base for the second out of the game.
From there, Patterson, who has been clocked throwing 74-75 mph, fanned the next 10 batters in a row for his fourth straight win.
"Tonight was pretty easy," shrugged the 12-year-old Patterson. "I felt like I was throwing strikeouts and just hitting my spots."
According to Patterson, Bushnell's 10-run second frame – all unearned runs off Moran (0-1) – released any tension from his approach.
"The early runs really helped," described Patterson. "I knew that even if I walked a guy, it wouldn't really hurt us. After getting such a big lead I just focused on hitting my spots."
Leading the Bushnell charge was Diego Arredondo, Gabriel Dorsey and Chandler Lake – who each cracked two hits apiece.
Maurice James, Austin Legg, Brandon Farmer, Dorsey and Lake each plated two runs.
James led the game off against Moran with a scorching double down the left-field line.
Six pitches later, Arredondo lined a RBI single to left plating James, 1-0.
Buoyed by five hits and five Spring Hill National errors – mostly on routine grounders – Bushnell paraded 14 batters to the plate in the second against Moran.
Bushnell's highlights included a RBI single by Dorsey, a two-run single by Arredondo, a solo homer by Deontae Grant and a two-run dinger by Lake.
Reagan Chapman replaced Moran and twirled a scoreless third.
In the fourth, Bushnell erupted for four hits and five runs off Chapman.
With the sacks jammed, Patterson grounded into a fielder's choice to plate Dorsey. Left fielder Jacob Adams followed with his first-ever grand slam over the right-center field fence to close the books.
"Tonight was a big first step (toward a state title)," described the 12-year-old Adams, who finished 1-for-3. "All week long we pitched well and played real good defense."
On the grand slam, "When I hit it, I thought it had a chance," smiled Adams.
Arredondo identified Patterson as the key to the game.
"He was awesome," said Arredondo, who helped his team with a 2-for-3 effort featuring three RBI. "He shut them down. I think getting off to a good start was big."
Bushnell 16, Spring Hill National 0 (4 Innings)
1 2 3 4 R H E
BUS 1(10)0 5 – 16 11 0
SHA 0 0 0 0 – 0 0 6
BUS – Patterson and Legg.
SHN – Moran, Chapman (3) and Glenn, Blevens (4).
W – Patterson (4-0). L – Moran (0-1).
2B – James (BUS).
HR – Lake, Grant, J. Adams (BUS).
Records – Bushnell (5-0), Spring Hill National (3-2).
Dixie AAA Majors (ages 11-12) All-Stars District 6 Tourney Recap
at Bushnell's Kenny Dixon Sports Complex
San Antonio – bye
Bushnell 9, Spring Hill American 3
South Lake 16, Ridge Manor 0
Spring Hill National 11, Sumter 2
Wildwood 6, Oak Griner 4
Bushnell – bye
Oak Griner 9, Sumter 6
Spring Hill American 18, Ridge Manor 0 (3 Inns.)
Spring Hill National 16, Wildwood 3
South Lake 9, San Antonio 6
Spring Hill National – bye
San Antonio 15, Oak Griner 0
Spring Hill American 10, Wildwood 0
Bushnell 13, South Lake 0
Spring Hill American - bye
San Antonio 7, South Lake 6
Bushnell 10, Spring Hill National 0
Spring Hill National 10, San Antonio 0
Bushnell 14, Spring Hill American 1
Bushnell 16, Spring Hill National 0 (4 Inns.)
3rd Place – Spring Hill American.
4th Place – San Antonio.
NOTE: Bushnell, SH National, SH American and San Antonio advance to July 14-20
Florida State Championship at Brooksville's Ernie Wever Youth Park.
2012 Dixie AAA Majors (ages 11-12) District 6 Final Standings
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Bushnell 5 0 1.000 62 4
2. Spring Hill National 3 2 .600 37 31
3. Spring Hill American 2 2 .500 32 23
4. San Antonio 2 2 .500 28 25
5. South Lake 2 2 .500 31 26
6. Wildwood 1 2 .333 09 30
6. Oak Griner 1 2 .333 09 27
8. Sumter 0 2 .000 08 20
8. Ridge Manor 0 2 .000 02 34
TOTALS 16 16 .000