It was no secret that Springstead’s baseball team entered the Class 6A, District 6 Tournament as the prohibitive favorite to repeat as champion.
But the Eagles certainly didn’t fall short of those expectations this week, recording two blowout wins to collect another first-place trophy.
“We just played real well,” Springstead head coach Shawn Laferty said. “Defensively, we made one error. That’s been our M.O. all year. We played good defense, had good pitching and hitting when we need to.
“It’s good for our program, that’s the way I look at it. Hopefully it sets the program up for the future.”
The top-seeded Eagles (24-3) cruised to a 9-3 victory on their home field in Wednesday’s semifinal over fourth-seeded Lecanto, 9-3.
Springstead sent eight batters to the plate in a four-run bottom of the first inning. After Max Glenn worked a leadoff walk and Johnny Oliveira doubled with one out, Joey Delgatto hit a grounder to shortstop that would have plated one run but resulted in two coming across when the throw to first base got away.
Dominic Marrone added a run batted in on a single to left-center field and Luke Laferty had a RBI infield single on a grounder in the hole to short.
Dakota Blevens and Oliveira hit back-to-back solo home runs in the second, and Springstead had plenty of breathing room the rest of the way.
“It just set the tone, stayed out front. Joey (Delgatto) was good on the mound, pitched very good,” Coach Laferty said after the game. “We had some home runs. That’s demoralizing for the other team, it seems to be. We did our job.”
Delgatto was solid, throwing five innings while giving up one run on five hits, though he did walk five. Still, the Panthers (10-17) only touched him up on Seth Stockburger’s RBI single to center in the top of the third.
Kevin Tomas tacked on a homer to make it 7-1 in the fourth. Lecanto showed some life against the Eagles’ closer Marrone in the sixth, Jayson Haufler singling in one and Joe Caggiano working a bases-loaded walk.
However, Marrone induced a 6-4-3 double play to avoid further damage. Then Oliveira got those two runs back on a triple in the bottom of the inning, and Marrone finished things off in the seventh.
“We’re playing good,” Coach Laferty said afterward. “Everybody likes each other, they get along. It’s a good team. A lot better than some of the teams we’ve had. There’s no infighting, no ‘I should be playing here, you should be playing there.’ It just is what it is.”
The Eagles needed just 4 ½ innings to dust second-seeded Dunnellon in Friday’s final, 14-2. Nick Collins doubled, homered and drove in three runs for the hosts, but it was Jack Jasiak who was the star of the night. The sophomore got the start and went four innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk with a strikeout.
At the plate, Jasiak was 3-for-3, tripling and totaling six RBI. Marrone added a 2-for-2 performance, hitting a double while scoring twice and driving in two runs. Oliveira was 2-for-4 with three runs and a RBI, and Delgatto finished 2-for-2 with a walk and three run scored.
Springstead will welcome Belleview in Tuesday’s regional quarterfinal at 7 p.m.
“I have no idea. You can look at MaxPreps all year, but it’s only as good as the guy keeping the book,” Coach Laferty said. “They’re solid. That’s what I expect. In a one-game playoff, you never know what’s going to happen.
“With what we’ve accomplished, the most wins (in school history), winning the Farm Bureau, now this; my expectations are nothing. Everything else is icing on the cake.”
Earlier in the tournament, sixth-seeded Weeki Wachee nearly pulled off an upset at third-seeded Crystal River on Tuesday. The Hornets (7-18) led 4-0, but lost 7-5 after the Pirates scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Weeki Wachee, which produced a stunning run to the district final in 2016, started out the scoring in the top of the first. Leadoff man Felice Vairo was hit by a pitch, and eventually scored from third when Dalton Mosser’s popup to shallow right went off the glove of the second baseman. Cam Sereda followed by smacking a double off an advertisement in right-center.
Two walks and Vairo again getting plunked loaded the bases with one out in the second. After a strikeout, Mosser delivered with a bases-clearing double to the fence in center. Nick Scarangella had a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
“I’m at a loss for words right now. I’m really thankful for the way the seniors played all year. It was really tough to have this be the way they get knocked out,” Weeki Wachee head coach Pat McHugh said. “We just sort of ran out of gas.
“We wanted to get back to another final. We wanted to see Springstead one more time. We had a feeling that it was going to go our way this time.”
Springstead also had a nice showing at the 3A FHSAA Finals for track and field on Friday. Junior Jacy Scharlow was the state runner-up in the girls high jump with a 5-3 3/4. Junior Kyle Manuel additionally earned a medal for his sixth-place 156-7 in the boys discus.
Also taking place on Friday and Saturday at IMG Academy Stadium in Bradenton was the 2A state meet. Hernando’s Mariah Knieriem tied for ninth in the girls high jump at 4-11, while Isaac Fields ran a 13th-place 41.04 in the 300-meter hurdles. The boys 4x400 of Jeremiah Vargas, Ross Stalcup, Fields and Hunter Davis combined for a 13th-place 3:31.07.
Weeki Wachee’s Seytia Hill placed ninth in the girls discus (113-5) and Diante Thomas came in 14th in the boys triple jump (40-7 3/4). Nature Coast’s Crystal Ortiz took 13th in the girls discus (104-1), as did Jouie Miller in the girls shot put (33-9 1/2).
Hernando County sports was in the national spotlight on Friday, as well, when rookie Christian Arroyo of the San Francisco Giants faced veteran Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo. The two, who are not related, both graduated from Hernando High, Bronson in 1995 and Christian in 2013.
Christian Arroyo hit a home run off Bronson Arroyo in the second inning, but the elder Arroyo went on to record the win, giving up three runs (two earned) in 5 ½ innings on five hits and a walk, striking out four.
“I’m proud of both of them,” said Hernando head coach Tim Sims, who coached both players. “It was the best of both worlds. Christian got the knock and Bronson gets the win.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.