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Dixie Baseball

Hernando Today correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:36 PM

It's almost apropos that following Spring Hill National's first-ever District 6 championship won in Wesley Chapel on June 11, the local club will attempt to capture Hernando County's first-ever AA Rookies (ages 7-8) machine pitch state baseball title beginning this weekend in Jackson County.

The West Hernando County nine will travel some 4½ hours – or nearly 268 miles – to participate in the 16-team, double-elimination formatted event at M.E.R.E. Complex in Marianna.

Spring Hill National (6-0) will be joined in the six-day event by Wesley Chapel American, West Volusia American, Paxton, Sebring, Sneads, Graceville, Holmes County, East Lakeland, South Walton, Hardee County, Franklin County, West Seminole American, Port St. Joe, Blountstown and host Marianna.

The state champion and state runner-up will advance to the 11-team AA Rookies Regional Tournament July 20-24 at Hartselle, Ala. There is no Dixie World Series for this age group.

The National nine is attempting to break new ground.

No previous Spring Hill AA Rookies team has ever won a game at states – let alone captured a state crown.

Spring Hill's only other AA Rookies state qualifier was the 2007 squad guided by Shawn Laferty Laferty's crew was shown the door after a 0-2 stay.

The 2012 Spring Hill National team features: OF Justin Leyden, 2B Alden Leskauskas, OF Jaxon Newhall, OF Nicholas Webster, OF Gavin McMurdo, 3B Jaxen Gates, 1B Jacob Kelly, P Anthony Mastandrea, OF Dominic Rodriguez, SS Tyler Smith, C Joey Goebel and OF Brant Davis.

The first-year all-star skipper is Eric Smith. Smith is assisted by Kenny Davis, Rich Webster and Mike Mastandrea.

In districts, Spring Hill National outscored the opposition at Wesley Chapel District Park, 85-27.

In a tourney hampered by four straight rainouts, Spring Hill National averaged over 14 runs per game, hitting a collective .384.

Of the team's 43 hits, 19 went for extra bases – though there were no homers.

Two stats stood out from districts. The Hernando County club fanned 35 times in six games compared to collecting a staggering 70 walks.

Newhall led Spring Hill with a 4-for-5 performance plus three walks for a team-best .800 average.

Four others hit over the .400 clip, including: Tyler Smith (.600), Goebel (.467), Webster (.455) and Kelly (.429).

Goebel was the most dangerous leading the team in hits (seven), extra-base hits (four) and runs batted in (nine).

Gates led the club in runs scored (13) followed by Mastandrea (10), then Leyden, Goebel, Kelly, and Tyler Smith (nine).

As far as lessons learned, Coach Smith admitted, "We learned you can't give up no matter the score and we all have to stay focused."

As far as the final district stats, "I'm not really a numbers guy," said Coach Smith. "I did notice we walked an awful lot. The pitching wasn't that good so I'm glad we stayed disciplined at the plate.

"The problem I see at states with the machine-pitch format is either you hit or you sit," chimed Smith. "There's no walking except back to the dugout if you don't hit."

On the eve of the lengthy trek to Jackson County, Coach Smith noted the team was injury-free and practicing without any signs of illness.

"At districts we had a flu bug go through the team, we probably had three kids not close to 100 percent," he said. "We're much healthier now."

Spring Hill National will not ease into anything having to face perennially tough Sebring at 10 a.m. in Saturday's opener.

"We know absolutely nothing about them," said Coach Smith. "But they're probably in the same boat about us. Right now, we're concentrating on putting our best foot forward. We just want to go out and play our ball."

Smith explained how Spring Hill National prepared for states and its pitching machines instead of live pitching.

"The kids have been hitting from the (batting) cages," he said. "At one point we spent three days in the cages."

On his team's approach, "The kids know this is a big trip," he said. "We're going to have some fun. If it's not fun, it won't be enjoyable.

"We know no Spring Hill team has ever won states," Smith pointed out. "At this point, we have to focus on each game as it comes. I think the kids are too young to worry about the bigger picture."

Can Spring Hill National compete under the new format?

"If we win a game or two, we've done our job. As coaches, if we do our jobs, the kids will do their jobs," stressed Coach Smith.

"I've seen the improvement in these kids since the beginning. I don't think we've peaked yet," he added. "Of course, everyone wants to win when you get to this point. But to me, it's more about enjoying the moment."

Smith was asked whether Spring Hill National could be looked at as one of the tourney favorites.

"I don't know mostly because I haven't seen the other teams," said Smith. "If we play it one game at a time we'll be a tough team to beat.

"Right now, we're concentrating on Sebring; they have our attention," said Smith. "I have to thank the community for supporting us with donations so we could attend this tournament. Without their generous support we couldn't make the trip to Marianna. There are a lot of people pulling for us."

 

Dixie Baseball AA Rookies (ages 7-8) District 6 Tournament Recap

at Wesley Chapel District Park

06-02:

Bushnell 17, Ridge Manor 10

Wildwood 6, San Antonio 4

Wesley Chapel National 21, Brooksville HYL 10

Spring Hill National 9, South Lake 5

Spring Hill American 13, Wesley Chapel American 5

06-04:

Wildwood 22, Bushnell 13

Spring Hill National 18, Wesley Chapel National 4

Spring Hill American 15, Sumter 0 (3 Inns.)

San Antonio 18, Ridge Manor 8

South Lake 19, Brooksville HYL 4

06-05 through 06-09:

Rained out

06-10:

Spring Hill National 20, Wildwood 2

South Lake 8, Spring Hill American 2

Wesley Chapel American 16, WC National 5

Wesley Chapel American 15, Wildwood 0

Spring Hill National 12, South Lake 5

06-11:

(Championship)

Spring Hill National 9, Wesley Chapel American 5

NOTE: Spring Hill National and Wesley Chapel American advanced to Florida State AA Rookies Championship at Marianna.

 

2012 AA Rookies (ages 7-8) District 6 Final Standings

PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA

1. Spring Hill National 6 0 1.000 85 27

2. Wesley Chapel American 3 2 .600 59 28

3. South Lake 3 2 .600 49 37

4. Wildwood 2 2 .600 30 52

4. Wesley Chapel National 2 2 .500 57 59

4. Spring Hill American 2 2 .500 36 30

7. Bushnell 1 2 .333 31 50

7. San Antonio 1 2 .333 32 26

9. Sumter 0 2 .000 15 42

9. Ridge Manor 0 2 .000 18 35

9. Brooksville HYL 0 2 .000 14 40

TOTALS 20 20 .500

 

By the Numbers: Spring Hill National AA Rookies (ages 7-8) District 6 Results (2001-12)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO

YR W L .PCT HEAD COACH

2001 0 0 .000 NO TEAM

2002 0 2 .000 Rob Taylor

2003 2 2 .500 David Smith

2004 0 2 .000 Ron Foust

2005 3 2 .600 Howie Woop

2006 3 2 .600 Mike Lemberth

2007 2 2 .500 Stacy Rodriguez

2008 2 2 .500 Frank Pastorelli

2009 0 2 .000 Richie Russell

2010 2 2 .500 Joe Abbadessa

2011 4 2 .667 Chuck Novick Sr.

2012$ 6 0 1.000 Eric Smith

TOTALS 24 20 .545 --11--

$ Denotes District 6 champion

 

Spring Hill National AA Rookies (ages 7-8) All-Stars

NO. PLAYER POSITION(S)

1 Justin Leyden OF

2 Aiden Leskauskas 2B

3 Jaxon Newhall OF

5 Nicholas Webster OF

7 Gavin McMurdo OF

10 Jaxen Gates 3B

11 Jacob Kelly 1B

12 Anthony Mastandrea* P

13 Dominic Rodriguez OF

14 Tyler Smith SS

15 Joey Goebel* C

23 Brant Davis OF

Head Coach – Eric Smith

Asst. Coach – Mike Mastandrea

Asst. Coach – Rich Webster

Asst. Coach - Kenny Davis

* Denotes 2011 AA Rookies All-Star

 

Spring Hill National Hitting Stats (thru 06-29)

PLAYER GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG

Newhall, Jaxon 06 05 04 04 2 0 0 04 .800

Smith, Tyler 06 05 09 03 0 0 0 03 .600

Goebel, Joey 06 15 09 07 3 1 0 09 .467

Webster, Nick 06 11 05 05 1 0 0 03 .455

Kelly, Jacob 06 14 09 06 2 0 0 08 .429

Gates, Jaxen 06 11 13 04 2 0 0 04 .364

Leyden, Justin 06 15 09 05 2 0 0 03 .333

Rodriguez, Dominic 06 09 07 03 2 1 0 03 .333

Mastandrea, Anthony 06 10 10 03 2 0 0 04 .300

Davis, Brant 06 04 03 01 0 0 0 01 .250

McMurdo, Gavin 06 05 03 01 1 0 0 01 .200

Leskauskas, Aiden 06 08 04 01 0 0 0 02 .125

TOTALS 06 112 85 43 17 2 0 45 .384

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