District baseball: Springstead 9, Weeki Wachee 5
SPRING HILL – After a shocking run to the Class 6A, District 6 championship, Weeki Wachee’s magic ran out on Saturday afternoon.
Springstead won its first district title since 2013, surviving a difficult 9-5 battle with the Hornets.
“Good teams know how to win games when they make mistakes,” Springstead coach Shawn Laferty said. “I’ve been telling them that all season.”
The Eagles (20-6) concluded a perfect regular season against district foes, but the win didn’t come easy. After winning only four games the entire regular season, Weeki Wachee (6-21) bounced back to upset both Dunnellon and Citrus and earn the first postseason berth in program history.
“We’ve been able to get healthy at the right time,” Hornets coach Patrick McHugh said. “The kids have been riding a roller coaster all week. This is a stepping stone for us, but we have to keep working.”
The Hornets were not intimidated by their opponent or the magnitude of the game, jumping out to a three-run lead in the first inning. A leadoff walk to Felice Vairo was followed by one-out singles Jeff Misener and Zach Rosario, scoring Vairo. Three wild pitches eventually scored Misener and Rosario.
Weeki Wachee seemed to be in the driver’s seat against Springstead starter Noah Siem (3 1/3 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 5 H), running up his pitch count to 93 before he was pulled. However, he got plenty of support from the Eagles offense.
Springstead answered with five runs in the bottom of the first, scoring all of them with two outs. After Rosario (4 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 10 H) retired the first two batters, Johnny Oliveira hit a long fly ball to the fence in right, ricocheting off of the glove of Vairo and over the fence for a solo homer. That’s when the flood gates opened.
Three dropped flyballs in centerfield allowed four more unearned runs to come across in the first, giving Springstead a 5-3 lead. Things settled down after that, with the score tied 5-5 after four innings.
Rosario was pulled in the fifth, and the Eagles were able to put up two runs in that frame and another two in the sixth to pull away. Springstead reliever Dominic Marrone (3 2/3 IP, 1 BB, 3 K, 4 H) was solid and earned the victory, shutting out the Hornets and working out of multiple threats.
Weeki Wachee will now travel up to North Marion for its Class 6A region quarterfinal on Wednesday, while Springstead will host Belleview on the same night. The last time the Eagles were in the state playoffs, they narrowly lost in the region championship game. Laferty seems confident that this roster can do just as well.
“We’re in it to win it,” he said. “We’ve seen guys that throw 90 (mph) all year long. We have to not make mistakes. That’s the key.”