Tigers’ repeat denied; Springstead tallies nine unanswered runs to trim Dunnellon, 9-4

Jake Rice watches his game-winning solo home run.                                                                             Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Jiovel Lantigua following his school-record tying 13th homerun Friday night in Spring Hill. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Springstead High’s Max O’Rourke yielded two singles over six innings for his first-ever varsity mound win. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
MEET THE CHAMPS! – For the third time in four seasons, F.W. Springstead celebrated the Class 6A, District 6 championship Friday night in Spring Hill following its come-from-behind 9-4 win over Dunnellon. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

BASEBALL

SHS IB Lantigua

blasts 13th homer,

knocks in 5 RBI

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

SPRING HILL – The last time F.W. Springstead High hosted Dunnellon, the Eagles’ senior first sacker Jiovel Lantigua will never forget.

In the Eagles’ April 5 13-3 win, Lantigua belted a school record three homers.

Previously, he hadn’t done that since he was 12, playing travel ball in the Dominican Republic.

On Friday night for the third straight season, Class 6A, District 6’s top seeds clashed for the district title.

The defending champion and top-seed Tigers, who reeled off 10 wins over its last 11 games – or since the last visit to Spring Hill – wasted little time jumping on Eagle starter Steven Fitzgerald (8-1).

DHS plated two first-innings runs on RBI singles by Jay Fraziars and Maurice Goolsby, 2-0.

In the second frame, the visitors doubled the cushion.

Tommy Weber led off with a single before Dylan Spinelli reached on an error.

At this point, fifth-year SHS skipper Shawn Laferty replaced Fitzgerald with little known reliever Max O’Rourke.

O’Rourke, who entered his third game with three innings under his belt, permitted a sacrifice bunt to Drew Leinenbach.

Kenny Richardson followed with a sacrifice fly plating Weber, 3-0.

Fraziars fisted a ball behind second base that was initially snared by shortstop Ivan Ortiz.

But when Ortiz became entangled with second baseman Louis Rodriguez‘s legs, he fell to the ground and ball popped out. On the error, an alert Spinelli scored, 4-0.

From there on out, O’Rourke, a junior right-hander, slammed the door yielding two singles over the game’s last six innings.

Meanwhile, the hosts pecked away.

Springstead plated five runs on five hits in the third inning highlighted by senior Jack Jasiak’s sacrifice fly, and back-to-back homers by Lantigua (a 3-run blast) and Jake Rice (solo) off senior Richie Fox (4-2) to regain the lead, 5-4.

In the fifth, the Eagles tallied four more runs on five hits against Fox and reliever Trent Townsend, punctuated by an RBI single by junior Jake Miller, an RBI double by junior Joey Hopper and Lantigua’s two-run double to seal the Eagles’ come-from-behind, 9-4 victory.

With the win, the Eagles’ third over DHS this season, the Spring Hill crew improved to 22-4 overall.

The Eagles will host Citra-North Marion (16-11) during the Class 6A, Region II quarterfinal next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Dunnellon (21-5) will visit 6A-5 champion Belleview (11-14) in the other 6A-II quarterfinal.

Many SHS standouts

O’Rourke took center stage among the local standouts.

In six innings, he faced 24 batters and yielded two singles, one walk and hit a batter while fanning six.

After two early errors, the Eagle defense settled in converted 26-of-28 chances.

Lantigua enjoyed the web gem of the night. Weber led off fourth inning with a shot intended for the right field corner, but Jiovel picked it clean and stepped on the bag for the impressive put out.

For the visitors, Goolsby finished with a team-high 2-for-4.

For the hosts, seniors Jason Bienstock and Lantigua and juniors Hopper and Miller each rapped two hits.

Bienstock and Lantigua also scored two runs apiece.

Rice’s golf shot – he literally sliced it off the grass over the left field fence – for his second homerun of the season; served as the game winner.

Lantigua, who drove in multiple runs batted in for the 12th time this season, tied his career-best with his third game with five RBI.

His 44 RBI lead all Hernando County batters.

Chuck Moehle

Moreover, the stocky 6-foot, 240-pounder, tied the Springstead school record for most homers in a single season (13) set by Rick Graves in 1984.

Graves, who graduated in ’84, was a two-time All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference infield selection under Chuck Moehle.

Post-game discussion

Jiovel Lantigua

After the game, O’Rourke (1-1) was grateful for an opportunity to pitch while Lantigua said he was grateful to be able to swing the bat after a rough start.

“Tonight was huge,” explained the 18-year-old Lantigua. “We were down 4-0, but we were able to keep the energy going.

“…It just seemed like oncc we scored, we got more and more energy at the plate.”

On the game’s key, “Oh it was Max (O’Rourke). I’m so proud of him right now. He walked into a tough spot, but stayed focused. For a guy who hasn’t pitched much, his performance was inspiring.”

Max O’Rourke

“We were down 4-0 early, but I’m so glad Coach Laferty just gave me a chance in such a big game,” described O’Rourke, 17. “I had good stuff. I thought (catcher) Jake (Rice) called a great game. I blended in all three of my pitches.”

On the keys to the game, “The first homer tied it. The second was huge because it finally gave us the lead. We never looked back that that,” noted O’Rourke, who pitched junior varsity level baseball last year.

On the win’s significance, “This was a great team win,” stressed O’Rourke, who uncoiled 86 pitches. “The adrenaline is just beginning to wear off. When I went in I just wanted to go hard for seven innings. Even when we were down, I knew we had the tools to come back. We all trusted each other.”

Jason Bienstock

Following his ninth multi-hit game finishing 2-for-4, Bienstock admitted, “Once Max (O’Rourke) came in, he just shut them down and we didn’t stop offensively.”

Remembering last year’s district championship loss (5-3) served as motivation this time around, “Last year’s game definitely played a role tonight,” expressed the 17-year-old Bienstock. “We didn’t want to feel like we did last year.”

Miller, who is nicknamed “McDouble” by his teammates due to his propensity for doubles this season (10) – tied his longest hitting streak at five games.

Miller, who finished 2-for-3, is 10-for-16 over the last five games (hitting .625).

“Tonight, we faced some Dunnellon pitchers whose best pitch is their curveball. I was just looking for an outside pitch,” shared the 16-year-old Miller.

Jake Miller

Miller, a All-County member of the district champion Eagles’ golf team savored his second district crown this year.

“This (win) tastes very good. We were down 4-0, but we came back with nine unanswered runs to win it. The key was getting clutch pitching.“

On the Eagles’ approach going forward, “The sky is the limit for us.”

In the three games prior to districts, Hopper was 0-for-9.

Joey Hopper

In districts, he’s regained his swing with three hits in six at-bats. Friday’s 2-for-3 effort served as his fourth multi-game of the year.

“Even though we were down 4-0, I knew we could come back,” shared the 17-year-old Hopper, a county weightlifting champion. “Nobody wants to walk out of here as the first loser.”

On his approach, “The key was hitting the curveball tonight,” he stressed. “Jiovel got the whole team fired up on his homer. Then Jake hits one out and we capitalize again.

“Pitching-wise, I‘m so glad for Max. He pitched a great game.”

Coaches’ corner

DHS skipper Mike Payne didn’t mince his words afterward.

“We were up 4-0 and controlling the game. Then they changed pitchers and that second kid (O‘Rourke) just shut us down. He killed our momentum.”

On facing Lantigua, “He (Lantigua) can flat out swing it. I think he had five runs batted in the last time we played, too. I told the guys afterward, pitching to him was on me.”

On where the Tigers go from here, “We’re not changing anything. There’s no need to. We’ve just got to trust in what we’re doing. Baseball is a funny game; anything can happen,” added Payne.

Springstead Head Coach Shawn Laferty.                                      Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

From the home dugout, after out-hitting DHS, 10-7, Laferty explained, “We’ve been here before. We were down early. I told the guys we had to stay focused. I told them not to be satisfied with just winning districts.”

On the game heroes, “Max (O’Rourke) just seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He mixed his pitches well. That’s a credit to Jake. He called a great game.

“…The back-to-back homers changed the game’s complexion. Jiovel is so hot, I don’t know why people keep pitching to him; but they do.”

On Laferty’s crew entering regionals, “The difference between this year and last year is night and day. This team is led by seniors. They’ve all done a great job,” emphasized Laferty. “I’m just pushing the buttons. It’s that kind of leadership that helps us moving forward. I stressed to guys we’re not done.”

2019 Class 6A, District 6 Baseball Tournament

05-07 Quarterfinals:

@ Lecanto

Citrus 6, Lecanto 5

@ Crystal River

Crystal River 1, Weeki Wachee 0 (9)

05-08 Semifinals:

@ Spring Hill

Springstead 14, Citrus 0 (4.5 Innings)

@ Dunnellon

Dunnellon 9, Crystal River 4

05-10 Championship:

@ Spring Hill

Springstead 9, Dunnellon 4

05-15 Class 6A, Region II Quarterfinals:

@ Spring Hill

Citra-North-Marion vs. Springstead, 7 p.m.

@ Belleview

Dunnellon vs. Belleview, 7 p.m.

Springstead 9,

Dunnellon 4

 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

 

7

 

R

 

H

 

ER

 

LOB

DUN

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

4

7

1

8

SPG

0

0

5

0

4

0

X

9

10

2

2

DUN – Fox, Townsend (5) and Santiago.

SPG – Fitzgerald, O’Rourke (2) and Rice.

W – O’Rourke (1-1). L – Fox (4-2).

2B – DUN: Leinenbach. SPG: Lantigua, Hopper.

HR – SPG: Lantigua, Rice.

Records – Dunnellon (1-1 tourney, 21-5 overall), Springstead (2-0 tourney, 22-4 overall).

All-Time Hernando County Baseball

Group/District Championships (29)

Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Hernando High (14)

Tim Sims                                                                                              Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

1967

B-4

19-2

Varn, Tom

1977

3A-10

16-18

Chatman, Ernie

1979

3A-10

23-10

Chatman, Ernie

1985

3A-7

28-10

Caldwell, J.B.

1986

3A-7

19-12

Caldwell, J.B.

1993

3A-9

30-5

Chatman, Ernie

1994

4A-7

23-8

Sims, Tim

1995

4A-7

25-7

Sims, Tim

2000

3A-8

20-13

Sims, Tim

2004

3A-6

15-15

Sims, Tim

2010

4A-8

21-10

Sims, Tim

2011

4A-8

26-6

Sims, Tim

2013

5A-7

24-6

Sims, Tim

2014

5A-7

23-5

Sims, Tim

F.W. Springstead High (6)

Sringstead Head Coach Shawn Laferty. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO.
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

1996

5A-7

23-8

Zefiretto, Tony

2011

5A-7

17-11

Vitale, Frank

2013

6A-6

18-9

Diven, Jim

2016

6A-6

20-7

Laferty, Shawn

2017

6A-6

24-4

Laferty, Shawn

2017

6A-6

22-4

Laferty, Shawn

Central High (3)

Gary Buel
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

1999

4A-8

21-12

Buel, Gary

2002

4A-7

15-13

Buel, Gary

2015

5A-7

18-11

Sorrentino, Al

Hernando Christian Academy (3)

Mike Ellison
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

2005

1A-5

13-11

Ellison, Mike

2008

1A-6

15-9

Boer, Scott

2009

1A-6

20-7

Boer, Scott

Nature Coast Technical (3)

Frank Vitale                                                                                                Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

DIST

 

W-L

 

HEAD COACH

2016

5A-7

20-5

Vitale, Frank

2017

5A-7

19-10

Vitale, Frank

2018

5A-7

23-4+

Vitale, Frank

* Denotes Final Four

 

 

 

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