88.5 F
Spring Hill
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeSportsBaseballLeopards Handle Hudson in District Semifinal

Leopards Handle Hudson in District Semifinal

- Advertisement -

It has been quite a journey for the Leopards (17-8) this season. This iteration of Hernando Baseball did not become the team they are overnight. According to Head Coach Tim Sims, they transformed from a 6-6 squad that struggled to “hit water if we fell out of a boat,” to a team that just won its district semifinal 9-0 on Wednesday. How did that happen?

 

 

Losing 13 seniors, shifting players to senior roles, and playing three games a week for two-plus months played a huge part. The result was that the Leopards pitched, hit, and played defense better as the season wore on. This was largely due to the team learning how to compartmentalize and making “teams pretty much beat us,” as opposed to letting previous plays beat themselves.

 

“’You got enough experience,’” Coach Sims told his team. “’Just do not make the same mental mistakes and emotional mistakes twice. When you have a bad play, flush it, play three outs at a time. When it is your three outs to hit, engage. If not, support your teammate. Same thing defensively. Bad play here, a walk, this and that – flush it. Go to the next play.’ They have done that.”

- Advertisement -

 

It culminated in their domination of the Hudson Cobras (10-13) in the 4A District 6 semifinal on Wednesday night. After some tight initial innings, the Purple and Gold used explosive third and fourth frames to extend their record to 11-2 over their last 13 outings.

 

For the first pair of periods, it was a pitchers’ duel between Hernando’s Senior Colten Cloud and Hudson’s Senior Shawn Hicks. The stalemate would be breached and crushed in the bottom of the third. It started with Junior 2B Mason Morgan’s double to leftfield on Hernando’s first at bat of the inning, and it did not stop until the home team held a commanding 5-0 lead.

 

“Mason Morgan got us started with a double,” said Coach Sims. “The bottom part of our order has become,  the last six-seven games, tough outs. They have been doing an excellent job of getting on base, just seeing pitches, putting the ball in play correctly, cutting and slashing, which is what we have been trying to get them to do all year. Takes time and they kind of bought in and they are doing a good job with it.”

 

The team has taken huge strides in hitting throughout the season due to a variety of factors and it showed in the third. Sophomore Austin Knierim’s single past second base officially put Hernando on the board as he ran a pair of Leopards (Seniors Braden Harmon and Bryce Saltsman) across the plate. Three batters later, Senior Henry Robison would deliver a hit past the other side of second base that mirrored the last, which ran Knierim and Junior Chase Shamblin home. The last score of the inning would come courtesy of a wild pitch as Junior Eric O’Dell saw his opportunity and sprinted across home plate.

 

Hernando High’s Braden Harmon was able to score when the Hudson Cobra catcher, Baylor Lloyd, lost possession of the ball during this play at the plate Wednesday during the 4A District 6 semifinal in Brooksville. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]
Hernando High’s Braden Harmon was able to score when the Hudson Cobra catcher, Baylor Lloyd, lost possession of the ball during this play at the plate Wednesday during the 4A District 6 semifinal in Brooksville. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]

The momentum carried into the fourth frame for the Leopards as they quickly retired Hudson’s batters and tacked another trio of runs on the board. Harmon would be run home again by way of a Sophomore Kaine Ellis single to rightfield, but it would not be so simple. Instead of staying at third, he took his chances at the plate. The ball came in as he approached and Harmon was tagged as he slid home, but the ball fell out of the catcher’s glove in the process. The score stood. Saltsman and Shamblin would be run in for two more points shortly after. Just like that, it was 8-0 and the game was iced.

 

In addition to hitting, the Hernando coach has been “pleasantly surprised” by his pitchers as well. “We have handled the rock and thrown the rock very well.” Cloud was dealing and painting the corners the entire evening. When all was said and done, the senior would go the distance, only surrendering three hits on his way to nine strikeouts and a complete game.

 

Up next for the Leopards is the district final against cross-town rival Nature Coast. Coach Sims described the matchup as a “squirrel game” and a “backyard brotherly Sunday afternoon wiffleball game.” He emphasized how much work both teams have put in to get to this point and how much “we respect each other. That is the most important part for our kids, their kids, and the community because there are good friends over there that are coaching.”

 

No matter the outcome, it does not appear there will not be any bad blood, just the camaraderie of friends and rivals playing the game they love. Coach Sims is proud of his squad for how much they have matured, and he is looking forward to getting back out on the diamond on Thursday night. “It is Nature Coast – Hernando. You definitely want to be there […]”

 

Hernando High’s Colten Cloud pitched a shutout against the visiting Hudson Cobras Wednesday in Brooksville in the 4A District 6 semifinal game. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]
Hernando High’s Colten Cloud pitched a shutout against the visiting Hudson Cobras Wednesday in Brooksville in the 4A District 6 semifinal game. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]
Hernando High catcher Kaine Ellis sets to throw out a Hudson Cobra batter Wednesday in Brooksville in the 4A District 6 semifinal game. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]
Hernando High catcher Kaine Ellis sets to throw out a Hudson Cobra batter Wednesday in Brooksville in the 4A District 6 semifinal game. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]
Hernando High’s shortstop, Austin Knierim throws to first to erase a Hudson Cobra batter Wednesday in Brooksville in the 4A District 6 semifinal game. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]
Hernando High’s shortstop, Austin Knierim throws to first to erase a Hudson Cobra batter Wednesday in Brooksville in the 4A District 6 semifinal game. [Photo by Joseph DiCristofalo]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.
We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.

Most Popular