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Caraynoff and Leopards Walk off Eagles

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By PAT YASINSKAS

BROOKSVILLE——In the quietest time of its offseason, the Hernando High baseball team suddenly—and surprisingly—got a lot better.

 

 

Back in late October Carter Caraynoff and his family moved to Brooksville and the senior outfielder/pitcher enrolled at Hernando. He previously attended Steinbrenner High in Tampa, where he played junior varsity as a freshman and sophomore, but missed his junior season after having elbow surgery.

Caraynoff made his biggest impact yet Tuesday night with a two-run walkoff hit to give the Leopards a 5-4 come-from-behind victory against cross-county rival Springstead at Emerson Field. Caraynoff’s hit capped a five-run seventh inning for the Leopards (5-3) as they ended a five-game winning streak by Springstead (5-4).

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The Hernando offense had been held almost silent through the first six innings by senior right-hander Brendan Anderson. With Springstead leading 4-0, Anderson walked the first two batters of the seventh inning before being replaced by Joey Rief. That’s when sophomore catcher Kaine Ellis singled to drive in Hernando’s first run. A wild pitch by Rief allowed Cody Whitelaw to score Hernando’s second run.

Austin Knierim followed with a double to right to score Ellis and make it a one-run game. Eric O’Dell then reached on an infield single and Palmer Looper drew a walk to load the bases for Caraynoff. The Eagles replaced Rief with senior right-hander Michael Dressendorfer and that set the stage for Caraynoff to end the game in dramatic fashion with a smash to the outfield.

“Our offense really got energized in the seventh inning,” said Caraynoff, whose father Greg, ironically, was a standout pitcher at Springstead in the early 1990s. “We got the job done.”

Hernando’s offense certainly wasn’t energized earlier in the game. Anderson was in complete control until the final inning. He allowed only two hits — both doubles by Ellis — and struck out six through the first six innings.

“Our bats have been quiet all season,” Hernando coach Tim Sims said. “But they came to life when we needed them to. Caraynoff hasn’t had a lot of hits. But he had a big hit to tie it up in our 12-inning loss to Nature Coast and he had the big hit tonight. He’s showing he’s a clutch hitter.”

Caraynoff’s arrival at Hernando helped cushion the blow that came with the loss of 12 seniors from last year’s District and Regional championship team. Caraynoff played left field against Springstead, but he also has made two starts as a pitcher. That has helped the Leopards get by without senior ace Colten Cloud, who has been out for two weeks with a separated shoulder on his non-throwing side, but is expected to return soon.

Although he joined the Leopards late in his high school career, Caraynoff, who has verbally committed to pitch at Barry University in Miami next year, said it’s been an easy adjustment.

“I like it here,” Caraynoff said. “I knew a lot of my teammates from summer ball. The scenery is a lot different than in Tampa, but I’m enjoying being in a small town for a change.”

Caraynoff’s heroics spoiled the night for the Eagles, who had won their previous five games after starting the season 0-3. Caryanoff and his teammates also put a damper on an outstanding performance by Anderson, who has been Springstead’s top pitcher and hitter. Anderson entered the game with a 0.58 earned-run average.

“Anderson has done everything for them on the mound and at the plate,” Sims said. “He’s a gamer, an all-conference-type player. He deserved a better fate than this.”

The Leopards and Eagles will play each other again on Friday night at Springstead.

Bryce Saltsman (Sr) of Hernando at bat. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Brendan Anderson (Sr) of Springstead pitching. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Brendan Anderson (Sr) of Springstead pitching. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Palmer Looper (Jr) of Hernando Leopards at the Hernando vs Springstead game on 3-12-24. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Palmer Looper (Jr) of Hernando Leopards at the Hernando vs Springstead game on 3-12-24. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Kaine Ellis (So) of Hernando hits a fly ball and makes it to second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Kaine Ellis (So) of Hernando hits a fly ball and makes it to second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Ryan Miller (Sr) of Hernando pitching to Springstead’s Nathaniel Sabino (Fr). [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Ryan Miller (Sr) of Hernando pitching to Springstead’s Nathaniel Sabino (Fr). [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Michael Dressendorfer (Sr) of Springstead catches a pop-up. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Michael Dressendorfer (Sr) of Springstead catches a pop-up. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead’s Elijah Sayre (Sr) slides into second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Springstead’s Elijah Sayre (Sr) slides into second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Ryan Miller (Sr) of Hernando pitching. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Ryan Miller (Sr) of Hernando pitching. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Bryce Saltsman (Sr) of Hernando slides into second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]
Bryce Saltsman (Sr) of Hernando slides into second base. [Photo by Cynthia Leota]

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