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West Hernando stars run out of runs, exit Senior sectional play

Generally, a team is not going to win too many baseball games if it scores only one run.

West Hernando Little League's Senior All-Star team belied that last Saturday, defeating DeBary 1-0 to advance in the section tournament.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be the exception to the rule. West Hernando scored only one run in each of its next two games, and those turned out to be far from victories.

A 13-1 loss Sunday to Arlington and a 7-1 loss Monday to tournament host Niceville eliminated West Hernando from the tourney and ended a dream season for the boys ages 13-15.

Though West Hernando had proven itself one of the best teams in central Florida with its dominating performance at the District 15 tournament, its competition in Niceville matched it and then some.

Particularly overpowering was Arlington, which dealt West Hernando coach Gary D'Andrea the first 10-run-rule loss he has ever had. D'Andrea also has been the West Hernando Blue Jays coach for the past three years, a span that stretched more than 75 games without a loss.

Despite its tumble in Niceville, West Hernando mostly played as well as it had previously. The notable exception, D'Andrea said, was the Arlington game.

"Arlington's a really good team," he said. "I still think that even if we didn't make the errors, they probably would have beaten us."

He never got the chance to find out, since his team made an extremely uncharacteristic seven errors in the game, in addition to several mental mistakes. Coming in, West Hernando had averaged about 1.5 errors per game.

D'Andrea's explanation: "It was hot out, (but) really, they just weren't into it. They weren't focusing, weren't hustling, weren't backing each other up. The other team was up 4-0 right out of the blocks, and they got down and never got into it. There were plays they could have made if they hustled."

Most Senior teams are dominated by 15-year-olds and don't even have 13-year-olds, who otherwise play at the Juniors level. West Hernando was dominated by 14-year-olds, with several players age 13 and only a couple of players age 15. That lack of maturity hurt the team against Arlington, D'Andrea said.

West Hernando played much better against Niceville, though it still resulted in a loss.

"They were in it all the way, they never gave up," D'Andrea said. "But every time we got on the verge of scoring some runs, they'd turn a double play on us."

Niceville turned three double plays, nullifying West Hernando's six hits. Niceville also scored all seven of its runs with two outs. Nick D'Andrea went 2-for-3 and scored West Hernando's only run.

In the opening win over DeBary, Bobby Sindelar had a typically fine pitching performance, allowing three hits and notching 13 strikeouts. Matt Jewell scored the sole run on Jason Bornstein's single. Jewell, Bornstein and Sindelar each had two hits.

West Hernando retains the accomplishment of winning a district championship despite being from one of the state's smaller leagues.

"Even though we got our heads handed to us, it's satisfying when you have only 40 kids to choose from," D'Andrea said. "I don't see what harm it does to go into sectional play. Hopefully, the team will get better in time."

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