BROOKSVILLE — For the first time since 2004, Hernando raised a district championship trophy high after its win in the Class 4A-8 title game Friday.
The host Leopards knocked off Nature Coast 10-0 in only five innings via the mercy rule with a walk-off home run from Kall Daniel in the bottom of the fifth.
Hernando (19-9) got a scare to start the game when Nature Coast (11-17) got consecutive singles from Tommy Tambasco and Danny Colon. Tambasco, who stole second, was waved around third by coach Pete Ruiz on Colon's hit, but Daniel threw him out at home from centerfield.
After that, the tide turned for the Leopards.
"That really settled (Leopards starter Austin) McNeal down," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "The kids start the game relaxed, and then the intensity picks up.
They're going to have to beat us. We're not going to beat ourselves."
The bats came alive for the Leopards immediately in the first. Nature Coast starter Greg Rittenberry (one walk, two hits, four runs, three earned runs) never got an out in the game before he was pulled in favor of reliever Kevin Oliveira.
The hitting stars were numerous for Hernando. The Leopards scored in every frame except the third and worked their way through three Sharks hurlers in that span. Matt Brady went 2-for-2 with a walk and three runs scored. Ian Townsend went 2-for-2 with an RBI, two runs scored and a walk. Tyler Bammert went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and one run scored.
Heading into the bottom of the fifth, Hernando led 9-0. With Nature Coast's Jon Gaffney on the mound, Daniel hammered a homer off the scoreboard in right to clinch the crown.