FORT MYERS- When the season began back in mid-February, the thought of reaching the state semifinals was something of a dream for any Hernando County baseball team.
That dream eventually over the course of time became a reality for the Sharks and it led them to Monday night’s Class 4A state semifinal against nearby Citra North Marion. With the outside possibility of making it an all Tampa Bay area state championship game as Dunedin was playing North Broward Prep in the opposing state semifinal.
Unfortunately, both Dunedin and Nature Coast were unable to reach the Class 4A state championship game, as North Marion scored four unanswered runs and got by the Sharks 4-1. Nature Coast’s magical season ends at states with a record of 24-5. North Marion will face North Broward Prep for the state championship.
The loss at states becomes a tough pill to swallow for a club that will graduate seven valuable seniors this spring. Now the Sharks take a look at what could’ve been in the midst of an amazing 2021 campaign. The only other losses that Nature Coast endured throughout the regular season were to Bishop McLaughlin, Hernando, Crystal River and New Port Richey Mitchell.
There were many players that had themselves a big year, but senior shortstop/pitcher Zeth Rodriguez was the top Nature Coast player in 2021. Rodriguez batted a solid .333 with 26 runs batted in along with 26 hits, five doubles and six home runs. Fellow teammate Collin Nelson had himself a good season as well, hitting three home runs, 28 hits and 18 runs batted in.
The top pitcher on the staff was senior Justin Montanez, who had an earned run average of 1.21, record of 7-0 and struckout 59 batters. Also doing well on the mound was senior Anthony Anselmo, who boasted a record of 6-2, earned run average of 2.46, only yielded 19 earned runs and a team-high 69 strikeouts.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.