On Thursday, May 4, Hernando Baseball downed Nature Coast Tech 6-2 to emerge victorious in the district tournament. In doing so, this gave Coach Tim Sims win number 500 and counting. The Leopards’ head coach talked about getting the win but downplayed the importance of the milestone while echoing his mantra of “players win, coaches lose.”
“To get 500, I really don’t keep track of those things,” Coach Sims said. “It’s just always been a philosophy of mine that the players win, and the coach is just there to teach, guide, and direct. Especially as a high school coach to do that. Now, that sounds like I’m not competitive, but I am very competitive, but that’s just it. It’s like 501’s just as important as number 1.”
Pitcher Michael Savarese has been an artist on the mound all season, painting every corner of the batter’s box. He was no different on Thursday, as he delivered ten strikeouts and only surrendered two runs on five hits in seven innings to give his coach the momentous victory. Savarese was also the only Leopard, alongside Patrick Green, to register a home run for the home team. The pair of seniors managed to run four and two runners home, respectively as well. Coach Sims spoke glowingly of Savarese’s night on the bump and of the pitcher’s legacy with the Leopards.
“Listen, that’s Michael Savarese’s future is what we witnessed the other night,” Coach Sims said. “He’s as dominating a pitcher as I’ve played with and coached. He’s right there with Arroyo, Snow, Mike Walker, Landon Hessler, and Brent Stentz. There’s five of the best to ever pitch at Hernando right there, and he’s every bit right there on it.”
Not to be outdone, Coach Kevin Bittinger and the Hernando Softball team defeated the South Sumter Raiders 13-3 on the same day to take districts for the girls. While he still recognizes there is a lot of softball still to be played, the head coach has been pleased with his squad’s performance thus far.
“I think they’ve done great,” Coach Bittinger said. “This team works hard and takes a great deal of pride in their abilities as individuals and as a team. I couldn’t be more proud. Still, a lot of work to be done, but they have accomplished a lot and plan to accomplish more.”
The Leopards have accomplished so much this season and in districts despite the injuries they have sustained to Seniors Tiarra Edwards and Sydney Cline. Though these setbacks meant that some players would have to play multiple positions, Coach Bittinger felt that showed his team they could still win if they played team ball. With Cline having already returned to the lineup and Edwards looking to be cleared this week, the Leopards are getting healthy at the right time. With those trials and tribulations behind them, Bittinger and company can focus on playing the way they know they can with the added confidence in their versatility.
“Just being us,” Coach Bittinger said. “Again, no one on our team has to be perfect for us to win, and if we all just do our part, we give ourselves a chance to win. We know they are a good team with solid pitching and a solid lineup, but if we just play our brand of softball, we give ourselves a chance to win.”
Moving forward into the 2023 FHSAA State Championships, Coach Bittinger’s team downed the Trinity Catholic Celtics 4-0 in the initial round and will face Santa Fe on Tuesday, May 16, at 7 pm at Hernando High.Coach Sims and company vanquished the Satellite Scorpions by a 6-0 margin in the first round of the playoffs, which already bumped the legendary Hernando coach’s win total up to 501.
But the baseball team (23-4) faced a tough task against the North Marion Colts (23-5) on Friday, May 12. The Colts defeated the Leopards 2-7 in the region semi-final, ending a solid season for Leopards’ baseball.