Hernando Youth League hosts the double-elimination event, with teams from all over Florida converging on Tom Varn Park and Jerome Brown Community Center.
Play begins this morning, with games Saturday, Sunday and Monday scheduled, though Mother Nature could always draw things out further.
By virtue of hosting, all five of HYL’s All-Star clubs are participants, while two from Spring Hill – the Darlings (ages 7-8) and Debs (ages 17-19) – will be in action.
Only one of those local teams has actually played an official game to this point, with the Spring Hill Darlings coming in off a District 4 championship two weeks ago.
Spring Hill went 3-0 in that tournament held in Wesley Chapel, outscoring its opponents by a combined 56-39 in the coach-pitch division.
“The weeks leading up to it, I knew we had a good team assembled,” Spring Hill head coach Nik Gilleo said. “I worked the girls pretty hard and to the team’s credit they rose to the occasion. I had a lot of help with my coaching staff. We were able to get a lot of stuff done and proved it on the field.
“All we’ve been focusing on is keep going. It’s a game of repetition and what we were doing worked. We didn’t want to change much of anything.”
Spring Hill opens its state slate today with an 11 a.m. matchup against Holmes County at Tom Varn.
“This is the first time I’ve been to a state tournament,” Gilleo said. “I’m going to say it’ll be a tough ride. It’s a much longer and arduous road we’ll have to travel. We’re facing all the other district champions, so it’s going to be tough. But I’m not familiar with the other teams at all.
“I’m not super concerned with the scoreboard as long as they’re giving me everything they’ve got and don’t quit. I expect them to do well. They’ve worked really hard and whatever the outcome they deserve the best.”
Spring Hill’s Debs haven’t played a real game this year – there was no district tournament for that age group – but they are hardly state novices.
Head coach Kevin Riecss boasts a roster featuring seven returnees from the Debs team he helmed in 2012: Cheyenne Gainey, Kara Masters, Amber Mayersky, Rachelle McClean, Rayanna Riecss, Morgan Selby and Kelli Wall.
Additionally, four current players (Mayersky, McClean, Jennie Munsey and Riecss) were on the state champion Spring Hill Debs in 2011.
Last year Spring Hill went 1-2, but certainly gained some seasoning with 10 players seeing prep action, including eight on the varsity level.
“I’m pretty blessed with the fact that all these girls had a year of All-Star experience,” Coach Riecss said. “The kids have played a lot of ball. They know the game. They are experienced.
“I’ve got a bunch of kids who can throw. The defense is solid. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 6-4-3 double play. The outfield can run them down.
“If we can score some runs, they all can hit but you know how you can face good pitching in tournaments. But if we can put some crooked numbers on the board, I think we can win this tournament.”
Masters, the ace for Weeki Wachee High, will head a pitching staff that also features Gainey and Ashley Vera, with Mayersky a threat in relief.
Spring Hill starts off facing Wahneta today at 11:30 a.m. Hernando plays defending state champ Franklin County at 9:30 a.m., with the winner playing West Pasco Saturday at the same time. All Debs games are Jerome Brown.
“It’s going to be anyone’s tournament,” Coach Riecss said. “Franklin County is the defending champ, so they’ve got the target on their backs. But the old saying is make the regular plays, get timely hits and if the pitchers keep people off base, we’ll be right in it at the end.
“Our ultimate goal is having to prepare for that dreadful drive to Alexandria, Louisiana (for the World Series).”
As for the rest of today’s schedule, the HYL Angels (ages 9-10) are participating in the “Traditional” tournament for that age group at Tom Varn, squaring off with Paxton at 11:30 a.m.
The HYL Ponytails (ages 11-12) are in the three-team “X-play” tournament at Tom Varn, and play Wesley Chapel at 9 a.m., then Lake Placid Sunday at 3 p.m.
HYL’s Belles (ages 13-15) take on Mulberry at 9:30 a.m., with Belles games taking place at Jerome Brown.
HYL’s Darlings don’t take the field until Saturday at 8:30 a.m., against the winner of Friday’s contest between Sneads and Mulberry. All Darlings tilts are Tom Varn.
At a Glance
What: Dixie Softball All-Stars State Tournaments
Who: Hernando Youth League and Spring Hill Darlings (ages 7-8), HYL Angels (ages 9-10 in Traditional tournament, HYL Ponytails (ages 11-12) in X-play tournament, HYL Belles (ages 13-15), HYL and Spring Hill Debs (ages 17-19).
Where: Tom Varn Park and Jerome Brown Community Center
When: Today through Monday (weather permitting)
At stake: State championship and trip to respective World Series.
Spring Hill Darlings (ages 7-8)
Head coach: Nik Gilleo
Assistant coaches: Anthony Nobisso, Joe Sicarrotta, Chris Way
Spring Hill Debs (ages 17-19)
Cheyenne Gainey P/1B
Kara Masters P/3B
Amber Mayersky LF/P
Rachelle McClean 1B
Cheyenne Moore C/OF
Jennie Munsey RF/1B
Noelle Neuguth C/3B
Rayanna Riecss CF
Morgan Selby 2B/P
Vanessa Valdes OF
Ashley Vera 3B/P
Kelli Wall SS
Head coach: Kevin Riecss
Assistant coaches: Matt Collins, Mark Mayersky
HYL Darlings (ages 7-8)
Cartli Jay Marshall
Head coach: Bonnie Anhalt
Assistant coaches: Jessica Bingaman, Wendy Genberg, Adam Wright
HYL Angels (ages 9-10)
Head coach: Billy Jones
Assistant coaches: Jeff Cloud, Danny Taylor
HYL Ponytails (ages 11-12)
Head coach: Nathan Carter
Assistant coaches: Abraham Dowdell, Steve Shenefield
HYL Belles (ages 13-15)
Head coach: Alicia Field
Assistant coaches: Ray Perry, Matt Platt
HYL Debs (ages 17-19)
Head coach: Troy McDow
Assistant coaches: Tracy Warner, Peter Vasseur