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The Hernando Youth League enters two teams this year, as opposed to just one in years past.
By DAVID MURPHY
Published July 13, 2007
The Dixie majors state tournament begins Saturday in Winter Haven, and this year, it has an extra twist.
For the first time, players from Central, Nature Coast and Hernando Christian have formed their own team, breaking apart from the Springstead and Hernando players under the direction of coach Donnie Whitehead.
In years past, the Hernando Youth League has entered one team composed of players from all five county high schools.
Last year, the HYL's lone team went 0-2, falling to Polk County and Marion County. This year, the old squad opens up with a first-round game against Crystal River on Saturday morning.
The squad composed of players from Central, Nature Coast and HCA faces Chipley later that day.
There is a chance the two Hernando teams could meet in a winner's bracket game Tuesday or a loser's bracket game Monday.
"It's a totally different animal when you get to state tournament versus high school," said Whitehead, whose squad features four all-county players from Hernadno High. "Dixie ball is a completely different stage in the respect that you are playing some groups who have junior college baseball players on them. It's a good opportunity for guys to gauge their skill level against guys who have played at the next level."
The last time the HYL won the state tournament in the majors came in 2000. The league also has a pre-majors team composed of 15- and 16-year-olds that will be competing. The last time an HYL team won the pre-majors tournament was in 2005.
The winners of both the majors and pre-majors tournaments move on to their respective World Series. The majors World Series will be held in Florence, S.C., and the pre-majors tournament will be held in Thomasville, Ga. Both are scheduled for July 28.
Dixie boys update: The Spring Hill 11- and 12-year-old team led by Jim Keith will open up state tournament play Saturday against tourney host Okeechobee at 11 a.m. The championship game for the 12-team field is scheduled for July 19. ... The Spring Hill National 13-year-old team coached by Mike Sollazzo won its district tournament, beating San Antonio 11-4 in the title game to advance to next weekend's state tournament in Grand Ridge.
Dixie AA/AAA update: Spring Hill American went 0-2 in the Double-A state tournament, losing to Callaway 5-4 and West Volusia American 14-10. Hernando beat East Lakeland 13-5 and Blountown 8-4 before being eliminated by Sebring 6-2 in the loser's bracket final. ... In Triple-A, Spring Hill American went 0-2, losing to Sebring 7-1 and Lake Placid 5-1.