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Spring Hill B team ends season with good feeling

The district tournament also represented the end of the season for Spring Hill's American Legion B team, so it is fitting that the tournament and the season began and ended the same way: very promising at first, but falling short at the end.

Post 186 was eliminated in two games from last week's district tourney, following a 2-0 loss to Berkeley Prep with an 8-2 loss to Tampa Gaither. That ended its season at 13-11.

Coach Mike Hoffman, however, considered the B team's inaugural season a definite success. Though Post 186 lost several games down the stretch, it still finished above .500.

"At the start of this season, we felt that going .500 would be pretty successful," Hoffman said, "and we did better than that."

Before the downward slide, Spring Hill was one of the most successful teams in the league. Likewise, the team looked good early on in its first district game, though Berkeley Prep had beaten Spring Hill 2-1 earlier in the season.

Matt Bolin pitched a perfect game through four innings, and was one out away from continuing it in the fifth when he gave up a hit. It was one of only two he would eventually allow, and Berkeley Prep didn't score on the opportunity.

Bolin wasn't so lucky in the seventh. He struck three batters and gave up another hit as Berkeley Prep scored twice.

Hoffman explained Bolin's unfortunate beaning streak: "Two of the guys he hit were left-handers, and his ball had a lot of movement on it; the curve was breaking into the left-handers and they got hit. But he was throwing the ball well _ he made a couple of bad pitches is all.

"Matt threw a great game and we played some great defense, but we just didn't take command of the opportunities we had on offense. We faced a tough little lefty; he threw a lot of strikes, had a good curveball and a good changeup."

Spring Hill had six hits, but none came at a key moment: "We had some opportunities in the second and the fourth, (but) we just couldn't get the big hit," Hoffman said. Tommy Conlisk was 2-for-3 to lead the squad.

Post 186's next opponent, Tampa Gaither, had come out on top 5-4 in an 11-inning battle earlier in the season. This game wasn't nearly as close, though Spring Hill trailed only 4-2 through five innings.

Gaither scored twice in the first inning and twice in the second, and this time Spring Hill hurt itself with errors along with rapping out just five hits. Conlisk threw a good game, and "if we had been hitting the ball, going into the seventh we would have had more confidence," Hoffman said. "We just didn't play very well."

Jimmy Holtje and Nick DuPrey had two hits each.

Lessons learned this season should be very valuable for this group, which was mostly made up of Central and Springstead high school junior varsity players, Hoffman said.

"The progress made by the individual player is the important thing," he said. "Of the 20 players we had, 16 or 17 can definitely say they learned quite a bit. The kids get out of it what they put into it, and a bunch of them got a lot.

"John Grice got an incredible amount out of it, as did Nick DuPrey, and Brian Loscalzo," to name a few. "Just about every kid improved. If you went 27-0 and the kids got nothing out of it, would that be worth it? No. We want to make kids better for the future, give them a chance to get seen, to go to college."