BROOKSVILLE — Early in Tuesday’s grudge match against rival Springstead, Hernando got quiet. Leopards coach Tim Sims could see his players trying too hard to overcome a two-run deficit.
So after two and a half innings, Sims told his team to relax and start seeing more pitches.
His plan worked.
Hernando seized control with a three-run third inning and scored on a late error to seal the Hernando County title with a 4-3 home win over Springstead.
“They did not let anything good, bad or ugly affect how they approached it…” Sims said. “They just kept battling and grinding each at-bat.”
They needed to after a slow start against one of Tampa Bay’s top prospects.
Springstead ace and Oral Roberts signee Brandon Brosher struck out three of the first seven batters he faced in two scoreless innings. A two-run single by Kyle Cottilletta gave the Eagles (13-7) a 2-0 lead in the second before Hernando’s eighth and ninth hitters broke through.
Senior Eloy Ramirez led off the third with a double, and senior Garrett Treverton showed patience at the plate before knocking a single to right.
“When your eight and nine hitters are doing that against a good pitcher like Brosher, it gives everyone else confidence,” said shortstop Christian Arroyo, a UF signee.
Playing in front of a handful of pro scouts in a matchup of the North Suncoast’s top two MLB draft prospects, Arroyo knocked in Ramirez moments later. Brooks Timmons’ RBI double tied the score, and Hernando (18-5) took a 3-2 lead on an Eagles error.
Springstead tied it in the fourth when two errors helped bring home Will Pagan, but the Leopards answered in the bottom of the fifth.
Senior Trae Ratliff singled, and Timmons scored on a bad throw to first to put Hernando ahead for good and avenge an 8-6 loss to the Eagles in February.
The Leopards’ pitchers stifled a powerful Eagles offense the rest of the way. Ratliff, a St. Johns River State recruit, struck out nine batters and scattered six hits across 6.1 strong innings. USF recruit Brandon Lawson needed only seven pitches to strike out the final two batters and seal the Leopards’ sixth consecutive win.