Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Spring Hill wins state Dixie baseball title

Until Wednesday, host Sebring had won each of its four games of the Dixie Boys (ages 13-14) state championship by at least 10 runs.

Not only did that run end, but Spring Hill (6-1) bounced back from a 16-6 loss to Sebring on Monday to win the first of a two-game final, 4-0 at the Max Long Complex.

J.P. Gates, who had hit three homers in five games, showed off his arm, pitching six scoreless innings. The victory earned Spring Hill, the defending state champion, a winner-take-all rematch immediately afterward.

And in the third meeting between the clubs over four days, the Hernando County team won 14-11 win to earn a berth in the Dixie Boys World Series in Bossier City, La. Spring Hill will represent Florida starting Aug. 2.

Down 6-3 in the top of the fourth, Spring Hill put up seven runs. Sebring brought it back within 11-10, but another three-run burst in the sixth clinched the win. Among the runs scored in the fourth was a two-run homer from Zach Funkhouser, his first of the tournament.

"Our top pitcher tossed the first game and changed the momentum," Spring Hill coach Mike Rado said. "Our bats came alive, and that was enough."

The lead was extended from there as it became the third Spring Hill Dixie representative to advance to the World Series this season, joining the Minors (9-10) and Ozone (10-11) teams. Playing in the Junior Boys state championship last year, this same group came up one game short of the World Series. The emotion was evident as it broke through Wednesday night.

"They are ecstatic," Rado said. "They have been working hard all summer, and this is just icing on the cake."

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