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Twice As Nice! Sharks Are District Champs!

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For the second time in the span of a week, the Nature Coast Sharks are district champs in a varsity boys’ sport. Their most recent title saw Pitcher Jackson Hoyt and the Sharks (18-6) take down the Hernando Leopards (17-9) at home on Thursday night. The team in Columbia blue utilized a strong first frame and clutch pitching throughout to come away with the 7-0 victory. Despite the lopsided score, Coach Garofano was not comfortable with the lead until the game was over because of how dangerous Coach Sims’ Leopards can be.

 

 

“At first, we were not really sure who was going to pitch for them,” Coach Garofano said. “So, you game plan to try to get an early lead and we came out swinging the bats […] It was not over until the twenty-first out, though, I did not feel. I know because they are a good club. They compete. They have had a number of come [from] behind wins this year already, so I did not feel good until the final strike of that game.”

 

The Sharks opened the game with a bang. After Hoyt held the Leopards in check in the top of the frame, the home team immediately got to work offensively. They loaded the bases with no outs before Junior Brady McMurdo ran Senior Nate Leavitt home for the game’s first points. The very next at bat saw Sophomore Bryce Hewell blast a double near the rightfield fence to run another pair of runners (Senior Dylan Palmer and Junior Joey Vancleave) across the plate. Two of the next three batters’ (Junior Joseph Rozsa and Senior Dylane Demeza) singles met with similar results by putting two more scores on the board.

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Hernando’s ability to come back quickly became evident a few innings later in the top of the fifth when the Sharks were enjoying their 5-0 advantage. Suddenly, Hernando had loaded the bases with no outs. It got even hairier when Bryce Saltsman went up to bat with the count being three balls and only one strike. That is when Hoyt stepped up as he has all season and closed the door on the Leopards.

 

Nature Coast Tech pitcher, Jackson Hoyt pitched six scoreless innings against visiting Hernando High in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech pitcher, Jackson Hoyt pitched six scoreless innings against visiting Hernando High in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]

“Bases loaded, nobody out, [Hoyt] stepped up and pitched the best he did all night in the toughest situation he was in in the whole game,” said Coach Garofano. “He is a competitor. He is a gamer, and that is what you expect him to do and that is what he does. He pitched outstanding.”

 

Three straight outs and zero points allowed for the junior pitcher. That is the kind of player that he is. He prepares the right way and works in practice. According to his coach, Hoyt always throws his bullpen two before he pitches, and why change what is working. The Leopards’ biggest mistake was letting the Sharks build a lead as that is when the junior is at his most lethal, and it showed on Thursday.

 

“We put up a quick number in the first inning and Jackson was able to settle in and really pound the strike zone,” the Sharks’ head coach said. “He is dangerous when he is pitching with a lead. We got five in the first, got a big early lead, and we were able to hang on.”

 

Nature Coast would tack on another two late scores in the sixth to ice the game before celebrating their 4A District 6 title shortly after. With Jackson Hoyt dealing from the mound, the Sharks should continue to be competitive moving forward in postseason play next week.

 

Nature Coast players celebrate after the final out of the 4A District 6 title game, winning over visiting Hernando High. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast players celebrate after the final out of the 4A District 6 title game, winning over visiting Hernando High. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech ,4, Bryce Hewell pitched the final inning in the 7-0 win against visiting Hernando High in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech ,4, Bryce Hewell pitched the final inning in the 7-0 win against visiting Hernando High in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech shortstop, Cody Wright tags Hernando High’s ,12, Bryce Salesman to complete a double play in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech shortstop, Cody Wright tags Hernando High’s ,12, Bryce Salesman to complete a double play in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Hernando High School’s, 4, Ryan Miller pitched relief in the 4A District 6 title game played at NCT Thursday. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Hernando High School’s, 4, Ryan Miller pitched relief in the 4A District 6 title game played at NCT Thursday. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech’s Bryce Hewell slides past the tag attempt by Hernando High’s Kaine Ellis in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech’s Bryce Hewell slides past the tag attempt by Hernando High’s Kaine Ellis in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Hernando High School’s catcher, Kaine Ellis, puts the tag on Nature Coast Tech's sliding Cashis Williams in the first inning during the 4A District 6 title game played at NCT. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Hernando High School’s catcher, Kaine Ellis, puts the tag on Nature Coast Tech’s sliding Cashis Williams in the first inning during the 4A District 6 title game played at NCT. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Hernando High School’s, 9, Carter Caraynoff got the start against Nature Coast Tech in Thursday evenings 4A District 6 title game played at NCT. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Hernando High School’s, 9, Carter Caraynoff got the start against Nature Coast Tech in Thursday evenings 4A District 6 title game played at NCT. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech catcher, Brady McMurdo looks to the dugout to get the pitch choice during the game versus Hernando High in the 4A District 6 title game. Photo by [Joseph Dicristofalo]
Nature Coast Tech catcher, Brady McMurdo looks to the dugout to get the pitch choice during the game versus Hernando High in the 4A District 6 title 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.
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