TONY CASTROApparently it doesn't really matter where Bushnell's talented AAA Majors (ages 11-12) All-Stars play, their Dixie World Series championship quest continues.
Published: July 20, 2012
Published: July 20, 2012
Case in point, from June 16-22 the Sumter County youngsters crushed the assembled nine-team District 6 field on their home turf – the Kenny Dixon Sports Complex.
The hosts pummeled five opponents – including District 6 runner-up Spring Hill National and third-place Spring Hill American – four times.
All told, the hosts outscored their opponents by 58 runs, 62-4.
Now, fast forward to Thursday night's 16th and final game of the State Tournament at Brooksville's Ernie Wever Youth Park.
As once belted out in the song "I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am" by Herman's Hermits: "Second verse, same as the first."
Bushnell head coach Mike Eastburn's club ransacked the nine-team state championship field by completing the tournament with back-to-back-to-back shutouts.
As good as advertised, Bushnell finished 5-0 outscoring its opponents by 55 runs, 57-2.
Unbeaten Bushnell (10-0 featuring six shutouts) will now represent Florida in the 12-team, Aug. 4-9 World Series hosted by Bartow.
Locally, one-third of the state field represented Hernando County and fared relatively well.
Similar to districts, Spring Hill National finished 4-2 to finish as state runner-up, with a composite 7-4 run this summer.
Both of head coach Will Glenn's losses were at the hands of Bushnell, 10-0 (four innings) and 10-0 (five innings). In between, National crushed DeSoto, 14-0 (four innings), Brooksville, 12-0 (four innings), and San Antonio twice (15-9, 7-3).
Similar to districts, Spring Hill American again finished tied for third at 2-2.
The American nine finished 4-4 this summer with all four losses arriving at the hands of Bushnell. In Brooksville, head coach Frank Frangione's club was bopped by Bushnell, 15-1 (four innings) and 10-0 (four innings).
Host Brooksville, which did not play in districts, earned a first-round bye before going 1-2 to finish fifth overall.
Head coach Jamie Stewart feared not playing districts prior to states would impact his team. He believed a lot of first-game jitters could have been put to rest by playing in districts.
Sure enough in Brooksville's first game Sunday, Stewart's jittery club was handcuffed to two hits by Spring Hill National.
"Not playing districts was the nail in the coffin," explained Coach Stewart. "In our first game our boys just didn't have it. It was a bad day. There were a lot of jitters. Had we played (districts), some of what happened would have been minimized."
"I had a long talk with the boys afterward," shared Coach Stewart. "I thought we still had a chance to go 2-2 in the tournament."
In its second-round tilt, Brooksville bounced back to trim Frostproof, 6-3.
Willie Coffee hurled the first three innings for the hosts and left leading 3-2. Coffee did not allow a hit, walked one and fanned six. Three errors led to two unearned Frostproof runs.
Tavis Drake replaced Coffee on the bump and allowed one hit, three walks and one run.
Wyatt Stewart entered in the sixth, but could not find his command issuing one hit and two walks. With one out and the bases loaded, he was replaced by Patrick Dresser.
Inheriting a tough spot was no big deal to Dresser, who retired the next two batters to earn the save.
Offensively, Ryan Becker led the hosts with three hits including two singles and a double.
Dresser helped himself with a homer in the second. Wyatt Stewart did not get a hit, but knocked in two runs.
"All Frostproof did was bunt, bunt and bunt," recalled Coach Stewart. "We struggled early on defending the bunt. But the win gave us all a lot more confidence. I thought we could take (San Antonio); they were at the same level we were."
Dresser worked the first three innings of Brooksville's third game against San Antonio. Dresser ended up surrendering the first of three homers to the East Pasco County squad.
Coffee was touched up for two more homers, including a round-tripper to tie the game at 5-all in the top of the sixth.
Drake walked one batter and fanned three in the seventh. In the eighth, Drake was victimized by a walk, a single, a couple passed balls and two wild pitches for San Antonio to eventually win, 7-5.
At the plate, Dresser finished 2-for-4 with a solo homer. Drake, who was instrumental in leading the short game, went 2-for-3.
"I just can't say enough about the game against San Ann," said Coach Stewart. "It was one of the best games of the tournaments. Most of the others were blowouts.
"I thought our boys really competed in our second and third games," added Coach Stewart. "I thought we went into this behind the 8-ball. This was my first rodeo. I thought we made the right moves during the tournament."
On Bushnell, "They came here on a mission. After finishing second last year to Spring Hill National, they had something to prove. They were as good as advertised," noted Coach Stewart. "They can do a lot of things extremely well. My hat goes to them."
Spring Hill American opened with a closer-than-expected nod over Franklin County, 6-2.
Sunday's second-round game against Bushnell was pushed back 24 hours due to torrential showers.
From Tuesday's loser's bracket, Coach Frangione's club eliminated DeSoto (9-6) before being ousted by Bushnell on Thursday.
After losing four times in four tilts to the state champs, there was nothing but praise from the Spring Hill camp.
"Bushnell is absolutely the real deal. Give them all the respect they deserve," said Frangione. "That's a well-coached team and their kids are class acts."
On Spring Hill American's 2-2 run, "We got a bad draw, that happens," summed up Coach Frangione. "Look, we were in it to win it. I'm so proud of our kids and our coaches. We gave 150 percent. But sometimes when you play ball you hit a brick wall – that's what happened to us."
As far as regrets, "I wish we could have scored some early runs against them (Bushnell). How would they have reacted?" he said. "We'll never know. In two tournaments, they never got behind. They have a real talented pitching staff.
"I would think they'll be tested in the World Series," added Coach Frangione. "They're from our backyard. I'm pulling for Bushnell. I wish them all the luck in the world."
As far as positives, Coach Frangione noted the yeoman efforts of Philip Orlando and his son, Brandon Frangione, "behind the plate in that 100-degree heat. Both those guys were monsters behind the plate.
"From districts to states, we didn't make a quarter of the errors we had before. Our defense really tightened up," noted Coach Frangione. "And our pitchers pitched better. Not that it really shows against Bushnell – but they did."
At the plate, Coach Frangione also took note of the Hernando County club's pop at the bigger park at Ernie Wever.
"We hit five homers, too (two by Jonathon Allion and one each by Kevin Thomas, Koby Simon and Brandon Frangione)," noted Coach Frangione.
On his team's greatest lesson learned, "To beat a team as good as Bushnell, you've got to be together for a while," stressed Coach Frangione. "We've been together for a month. They've been together for four years – it shows."
Dixie Baseball AAA Majors (ages 11-12) State Tournament Recap
at Brooksville's Ernie Wever Youth Park
Brooksville – bye.
San Antonio 12, Molino 0 (5 Innings)
Spring Hill National 14, DeSoto 0 (4)
Spring Hill American 6, Franklin County 2
Bushnell 12, Frostproof 1
San Antonio – bye.
DeSoto 3, Molino 0
Spring Hill National 12, Brooksville 0 (4)
Bushnell 15, Spring Hill American 1 (4)
Frostproof 6, Franklin County 0
Bushnell – bye.
Brooksville 6, Frostproof 3
Spring Hill American 9, DeSoto 6
Spring Hill National 15, San Antonio 9
Spring Hill American – bye.
San Antonio 7, Brooksville 3
Bushnell 10, Spring Hill National 0 (4)
Spring Hill National 7, San Antonio 3
Bushnell 10, Spring Hill American 0 (4)
Bushnell 10, Spring Hill National 0 (5)
NOTE: Bushnell advances to the 12-team, Aug. 4-9 World Series in Bartow.
2012 Final Dixie Baseball AAA Majors (ages 11-12) State Tournament Standings
PL TEAM W L .PCT RS RA
1. Bushnell 5 0 1.000 57 02
2. Spring Hill National 4 2 .667 48 32
3.(tie) San Antonio 2 2 .500 31 27
3.(tie) Spring Hill American 2 2 .500 16 33
5. Brooksville 1 2 .333 11 22
6.(tie) Frostproof 1 2 .333 10 23
6.(tie) DeSoto 1 2 .333 09 23
8.(tie) Franklin County 0 2 .000 07 12
8.(tie) Molino 0 2 .000 00 15
TOTALS 16 16 .500