St. Petersburg could very well be the Dizzy Dean baseball capital of the country.
This past week, Fossil Park's 11-year-old all-star team and Northwest's 10-year-old all-star team each won World Series championships in Alabama.
Fossil Park's team limped into the Dizzy Dean World Series after losing three straight games of a best-of-five series against Pensacola in the state tournament two weeks ago (only two teams showed for the state tournament at Fossil Park, and the top two advance to the World Series).
But judging by the dog pile on the mound after a 13-8 win over Northport (Ala.) in the World Series championship, the team feels just fine.
Fossil Park won six straight games at the national tournament in Cullman, Ala., outscoring opponents 73-24 to win the World Series. Fossil Park defeated Northport twice in the winner's bracket to earn the title. The first game was a 12-2 win in four innings thanks to three hits and three RBIs from Jesse Moeller and a grand slam from Mike Ferrandiz. Ferrandiz was the tournament's MVP.
In the championship game, Blake Duncan was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a two-run homer. Bret Maxwell, Drew Vimond and Jason Mugavero had two hits each and pitcher Colton Tison earned the win with four innings pitched and five strikeouts.
"We did not take a lot of momentum into the tournament,'' assistant coach Phil Mugavero said. "We didn't think (Pensacola) could beat us three straight, but they did. But we played very well in Alabama.''
Vimond, Duncan, Maxwell and Jake Rek were named to the all-tournament team. Kennie Taylor, Chase Campbell, Zach Snell, Tim Murphy, Riley Barr and Brien Story also contributed for Fossil Park.
Northwest also won five straight games to claim its championship, the first World Series title for a Northwest team. Northwest defeated Northport 10-0 in the final in Moody, Ala. It outscored opponents 75-10. Pitchers Scott Files, Clayton Kwiatkowski and Garrett Sullivan stood out during the tournament, combining for a no-hitter in a 17-0 win over Sandy Plains (Ga.). Clayton Bonalewicz hit his first home run in the series and Tanner Lawrence hit an inside-the-park home run.
"We'd been playing pretty well coming into the tournament and then our pitching just dominated,'' said manager Steve Lawrence.
Dizzy Dean baseball is played in 13 states, mostly in the South. Locally, there are Dizzy Dean leagues at Fossil Park, Northwest, Pinellas Park, Tierra Verde, Seminole and south St. Petersburg.
The St. Pete Stingers, based out of Fossil Park, are competing in the Cooperstown Dreams Park American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., this week.
The tournament is open to players 12 years and younger and has 96 teams competing weekly. The St. Pete Stingers are Nick Bodner, Christopher Clark, Cornelius Copeland, Josh Hale, Christopher Howd, Jensen Keeler, Jeremy Kerr, Chris Labrie, Connor Labrie, Antonio Lovett, Brett Maxwell, John Miller, Timmy Murphy, Angelo Terrasi, Nick Van Nostrand and Drew Vimond.
Jerica Coley, 16, a rising junior at St. Petersburg Catholic and the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, won the inaugural First Serve National Student Athlete Competition. Coley was recognized for her achievements in tennis and the classroom and was extended an invitation from the national board of directors to be the first member of its National Honor Society.
"Jerica is a model for all young people and has set high standards for the future," said Trey Buchholz, founder and CEO of the First Serve not-for-profit organization.
"Her development on the tennis courts and in the classroom is outstanding," he said. "Her grades included 15 As and one B this year, and in five tennis tournaments, she won eight of 12 matches. It seems when Jerica puts her mind to it, she can do anything."
Buchholz announced a final award in recognition of Coley's achievement: a trip to New York during the U.S. Open Championships for her and her parents.
"This is just a real honor for me to receive this award and I feel very privileged to have gotten it," said Coley. "I was real excited when I knew I was in the lead and, once I got there, I wanted to stay in first."
First Serve combines the teaching of tennis skills with life skills and offers after-school tutoring opportunities. Its mission includes empowering youth with skills, values and experiences needed to be responsible, productive and successful in life.
• Several local players recently competed in the North Florida Designated tournament in Tallahassee, and two made the finals. Agatha Ambrozy of Pasadena went to the final in the girls 14 singles before losing to Brittany Lindl 6-4, 6-1. Palm Harbor's Anastasia Nefedova won the girls 12 singles with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Ashley Bongart in the final. There were 361 players registered in the tournament.
Matt Allwin and Brittany Gaunt repeated as champions of the Junior Club Championship at Clearwater Country Club. Allwin, who won the tournament for the fourth straight year, shot a 54-hole total of 218 to defeat Matt Simpson by 10 shots. Gaunt shot 281 to win for the third straight year.
Times correspondent Nancy Morgan contributed to this report. Rodney Page can be reached at (727) 893-8810 or [email protected]