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Prep Sports Report

Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons

Jeff Pincus steps down as Seminole baseball coach

By Rodney Page

Times Staff Writer

Jeff Pincus has resigned as Seminole’s baseball coach. Pincus recently completed his fifth season as the Warhawks head coach. In five years he had an 84-54 record. This season, Seminole was 12-14.

“I’ve decided to step down as head coach but I still hope to be involved in the program in some capacity,’’ Pincus said. “The real reason for doing this now is because I’m getting close to being done with the DROP program and I wanted to have a transition year before I’m done.’’

Pincus will remain a teacher at Seminole. Prior to being the head coach, he was an assistant coach at Seminole for six years. He took over for Greg Olsen, who is now at Calvary Christian, in 2012. That season the Warhawks were 24-5, his best at the school.

“I’ve given 11 years of my life to this program,’’ Pincus said. “Every decision I’ve made, whether people agreed or not, was in the best interest of the Seminole baseball program.’’

There is no timetable for hiring a new head coach. Pincus said he believes one of the main priorities for the new coach is that they be a teacher at the school.

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 23-29

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 23 through Friday, April 29. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Taylor Finney, softball, Strawberry Crest: The sophomore shortstop had a two-run single and scored the final run in the Chargers’ 6-4 win over Orange Park Oakleaf in a Class 8A region finals. Strawberry Crest is in the state semifinals for the first time in school history.  

Ashley Gonyou, track, Gulf: The junior was the lone area female athlete to win a title at the Class 2A, Region 2 meet, taking first in the 300 hurdles in 48.54 seconds, more than a second ahead of her closest competitor.

Jodi Handler, softball, Alonso: The ace allowed four hits and had six strikeouts in a 2-1 win over Orlando Timber Creek in the Class 9A region final. Handler has won seven straight and helped Alonso reach the state semifinals for the first time. …

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New Admiral Farragut coach notches first boys region title

Admiral Farragut's Alex Gray is all smiles as he glides to the victory in the 100 meters.

Chuck Frye, Special to the Times

Admiral Farragut's Alex Gray is all smiles as he glides to the victory in the 100 meters.

CLEARWATER — Aaron Prather had his work cut out for him.

Not only was he tabbed to coach Admiral Farragut's outdoor track teams in November, he was replacing a 27-year veteran in Phil Barnhill, who retired after bringing home the school's first girls state title.

Battling against time and limited roster numbers, the former Tampa Catholic coach made a positive impact. Thursday's Class A region meet at Calvary Christian was the latest indication as the Blue Jackets placed second in the girls meet while taking top honors on the boys side.

"We knew each other well and he said I'd be a good person for the job," said Prather, who still talks shop with Barnhill. "I'm just so happy to keep the tradition going."

The boys' title was also a breakthrough for Prather, who said, "I was at Tampa Catholic for seven years and we'd always get district runnerup but not the championship. This is my first time winning regionals."

The key cog in Farragut's title was low-key sprinter Alex Gray, who easily won the 100- (10.76 seconds) and 200-meter (21.78) dashes. …

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Jesuit's Connar Lufkin, Holy Names' Julia Lester honored as soccer's best

Julia Lester and Connar Lufkin take home this year's Jose Alvarez awards for the county's top soccer players.

Darek Sharp, Special to the Times

Julia Lester and Connar Lufkin take home this year's Jose Alvarez awards for the county's top soccer players.

YBOR CITY — For the fourth time in six years a Jesuit player won the Jose Alvarez Award for best male soccer player in Hillsborough County, but Connar Lufkin might stand out among the bunch.

Jesuit coach Eric Sims called Lufkin the best Tigers player of the past 10  years.

"That's kinda crazy," Lufkin said after receiving the award Thursday night at a ceremony held at Spaghetti Warehouse.  "It's humbling, really, because of all the players who've been here."

Sims pointed at Lufkin's unreal prowess in the playoffs, including nine goals this year, 17 overall. Jesuit reached the state semifinals and Lufkin had two goals in the first 20 minutes as the Tigers led nationally-ranked Ponte Vedra before falling 3-2.

The female award went to Academy of the Holy Names' Julia Lester, a University of Florida commit who was hoodwinked in order to get to the dinner Thursday.

"I was told that one member of each of the different sports was going to be here, a unity thing," she said.

Though Lester was the standout, she was recognized for never considering herself as a "star" on a Jaguars team that also reached the state semis. …

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District baseball: Springstead 9, Weeki Wachee 5

SPRING HILL – After a shocking run to the Class 6A, District 6 championship, Weeki Wachee’s magic ran out on Saturday afternoon. 

Springstead won its first district title since 2013, surviving a difficult 9-5 battle with the Hornets.

“Good teams know how to win games when they make mistakes,” Springstead coach Shawn Laferty said. “I’ve been telling them that all season.” 

The Eagles (20-6) concluded a perfect regular season against district foes, but the win didn’t come easy. After winning only four games the entire regular season, Weeki Wachee (6-21) bounced back to upset both Dunnellon and Citrus and earn the first postseason berth in program history.

 “We’ve been able to get healthy at the right time,” Hornets coach Patrick McHugh said. “The kids have been riding a roller coaster all week. This is a stepping stone for us, but we have to keep working.”

 The Hornets were not intimidated by their opponent or the magnitude of the game, jumping out to a three-run lead in the first inning. A leadoff walk to Felice Vairo was followed by one-out singles Jeff Misener and Zach Rosario, scoring Vairo. Three wild pitches eventually scored Misener and Rosario. …

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District baseball: Bishop McLaughlin 6, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic 0

Bishop McLaughlin's Zack Berglund makes the tag for the final out of the game.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

Bishop McLaughlin's Zack Berglund makes the tag for the final out of the game.

Three years ago, Jeff Swymer took the reins of the Bishop McLaughlin baseball team. Saturday, the ’Canes hoisted their third straight district championship trophy after blanking visiting Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic 6-0 for the Class 3A, District 4 title.

“This is why I do it, to see these kids be successful,” Swymer said. “These kids do everything they can to make it work and that’s a reflection of this coaching staff.”

Senior Carson Ragsdale improved to 8-2 on the season with a dominant outing both on the mound and at the plate. Ragsdale went seven complete innings, striking out six, scattering three hits, while not yielding a run or issuing a walk. Ragsdale, who went 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs, got the offense rolling with an RBI single in the first inning to drive in Paul Coumoulos, who’d doubled just prior.

Then the ’Canes had a big fourth inning. …

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District baseball: Northside Christian 4, Sarasota Out-of-Door 3

LARGO – Northside Christian coach Raul Hernandez saw something during preseason intersquad scrimmages that bothered him.

“I noticed that whenever there were inside pitches, our batters were jumping out of the way,” Hernandez said. “We preached to them to stay in there, take the hit and go to first base for the good of the team.”

The payoff came Friday night in the Class 3A, District 5 championship game at Indian Rocks Christian where three hit batters earned the youthful Mustangs an improbable 4-3 walkoff victory over Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy.

With leadoff batter Ty McGeehan (error and sacrifice bunt) at second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, sophomore Brian Fuller was plunked for the second time in the game. Eighth-grader Pierce Chambers walked to load the bases, then sophomore sub Luke Vari was hit by an inside curveball to score McGeehan. The second pitch to sophomore leadoff hitter Corey Yawn found his arm, plating Fuller with the winner.

“It's the will to win,” said Fuller, who also added a double to Friday's stat line. “If we put ourselves on base, we give our team a better chance to win.” …

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 16-22

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 16 through Friday, April 22. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Natalie Chapman, track, Northside Christian: At the Class A, District 7 meet, the junior played a big role in the Mustangs' team title, taking first in the 100 hurdles (17.03) and 300 hurdles (50.38), and running a leg on the winning 4x400 relay (4:20.29).

Haley Murphy, softball, Riverview: The sophomore recorded 11 strikeouts and had a shutout through six innings to lead the Sharks to a 5-3 win over Steinbrenner in the Class 8A region quarterfinals.

Melanie Rogers, softball, River Ridge: The freshman pitcher allowed six hits, recorded eight strikeouts and retired the side in the seventh inning to seal the Royal Knights' 5-4 win over Robinson in the Class 6A region quarterfinals. …

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 9-15

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 9 through Friday, April 15. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Daneesha Davidson, track, Hillsborough: At the Class 3A, District 9 meet, Davidson showed off her versatility, winning the triple jump (37 feet, 2.25 inches) and the 300 hurdles (44.38) to lead the Terriers to the team title.

Kasey Locke, softball, Strawberry Crest: The senior went 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in the Chargers’ 10-0 win over Wharton in the Class 8A, District 4 championship. She also was 2-for-3 in a semifinal win over Wiregrass Ranch.

Paige Pfent, softball, Springstead: The sophomore was a combined 7-for-8 with two triples a homer and five RBIs in wins over Lecanto and Crystal River to take the Class 6A, District 6 title.

Kendall Tipton, softball, Land O’Lakes: In the Class 6A, District 7 tournament, the senior was 3-for-4 against Wesley Chapel in the semifinals and had a run-scoring double against River Ridge in the championship game. …

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HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

Dustin Harris and Land O'Lakes go into next week's 6A-7 tournament with a perfect district mark on the season.

Douglas R. Clifford | Times

Dustin Harris and Land O'Lakes go into next week's 6A-7 tournament with a perfect district mark on the season.

1. Steinbrenner (17-5)

This week: Monday at Jefferson, Tuesday at Berkeley Prep, Thursday vs. Carrollwood Day

Scoop: The Warriors are riding a four-game win streak, outscoring their past four opponents 27-12. Considering Steinbrenner is in a three-team district alongside a floundering Sickles squad, it’s safe to say the Warriors could be starting their state playoff run with lots of momentum.

2. Alonso (17-6)

This week: Tuesday vs. Chamberlain, Thursday at King

Scoop: The Ravens are coming off an impressive 11-0 victory against Jefferson, a game in which Ryan Fernandez gave up just one hit in five frames and the Alonso offense scored all 11 runs by the third inning. That powerful combination could take the Ravens far this postseason.

3. Jesuit (19-4)

This week: Monday vs. Sarasota, Tuesday vs. Bartow

Scoop: The Tigers wrap up their regular season early this week, and they have a chance to do so on an impressive seven-game win streak. Most recently Jesuit topped rival Tampa Catholic 6-5 behind a three-RBI performance from Steven Lugo.

4. Land O’Lakes (19-2)

This week: Tuesday at Fivay, Wednesday vs. Sunlake …

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 2-8

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 2 through Friday, April 8. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Breana Blankenship, softball, River Ridge: The sophomore was a combined 4-for-6 with five RBIs and two home runs in wins over Mitchell and Tampa Catholic in the final week of the regular season.

Cassidy Davis, softball, Newsome: The FSU signee threw a two-hitter with 17 strikeouts and went 2-for-4 with two home runs to break out of hitting slump in a win over Chamberlain.

Olivia Elliott, softball, Cambridge Christian: The sixth-grader was a combined 4-for-8 with five RBIs and three runs scored in wins over Bradenton Christian and Shorecrest.

Robyn Hancock, tennis, Osceola: The Warriors’ No. 3 player won her singles match, then teamed with Emma Mitchell to keep their perfect record at No. 2 doubles intact in a win over Largo to lead Osceola to its first state berth in the sport. …

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Tennis: Wiregrass Ranch makes quick work of Lakeland, heads back to state

The wait was rough, but worth it for the Wiregrass Ranch boys tennis team. Having their region final match with Lakeland suspended due to darkness, the Bulls closed out the victory in quick fashion Friday afternoon when No. 1 doubles team Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez and Destiny Okungbowa finished off a 6-4, 6-4 victory to clinch a defeat of Lakeland.

"The waiting around was stressful," said Bulls coach David Wilson. "The guys warmed up together, and that was about a half hour. And it was over in about 2 1/2 minutes."

Wilson stressed the importance of the first point to his players, and Okungbowa won it with a scoring forehand down the alley. At 40-15 Castillo-Sanchez made a tremendous dive to get to a drop shot and knock it past Lakeland's duo.

After a celebration that included No. 2 doubles pair Jared Abrams and Lorcan Kavanagh, they finished their match against a Lakeland senior duo and the Dreadnaughts prevailed 6-3 in the second set for a final team score of 4-3 Bulls. …

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Seminole to dedicate baseball field to Bill Brinker

Prior to Friday’s game against Dunedin, Seminole will dedicate its field to longtime coach Bill Brinker. Brinker spent 29 years as the Warhawks head baseball coach. His overall record was 485-217. He led Seminole into the regional tournament four times (1978, 1988, 1992 and 1994).

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6:30 with former players and assistant coaches expected to attend. Brinker, 90, will also attend the dedication.

“It’s more like a re-dedication,’’ Seminole head coach Jeff Pincus said. “The field has been called ‘Bill Brinker Field’ at least since 2005, when I got there. But the alumni wanted to have a formal dedication. It should be a nice event. There will be a sign in the outfield. Coach Brinker was a legend around here. He deserves it.’’

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HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

Steinbrenner returns to the top of our area baseball rankings.

Scott Purks | Special to the Times

Steinbrenner returns to the top of our area baseball rankings.

1. Steinbrenner (15-5)

This week: Tuesday vs. Leto, Thursday vs. Strawberry Crest

Scoop: The Warriors rebounded from their Saladino slump with wins over solid Gaither and King squads. Against the Lions, eight Warriors combined for nine hits and Patrick Morris led the way with two RBIs in the 4-2 victory.

2. Alonso (15-6)

This week: Tuesday at Gaither, Thursday vs. Jefferson

Scoop: Alonso has lost three of its past five, dropping games to Steinbrenner, Plant and Riverview, but the Ravens have already proven once this season that they rebound easily. They’ve still also got one of the best offensive lineups around, with eight of nine starters hitting at least .300.

3. Jesuit (17-4)

This week: Tuesday vs. Robinson, Friday vs. Tampa Catholic

Scoop: After dropping a game to Calvary Christian on March 23, the Tigers have rolled, outscoring two out-of-state teams 15-1 before topping Jefferson 7-4 Monday. Drew Martin and Jack Anderson are carrying the load on the mound, posting 1.52 and 0.28 ERAs, respectively.

4. Land O’Lakes (18-1)

This week: Tuesday at Wiregrass Ranch, Friday at Sunlake …

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HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay

Chyloe Gonzalez and Nature Coast have locked up the top seed in Class 5A, District 7.

Brendan Fitterer | Times

Chyloe Gonzalez and Nature Coast have locked up the top seed in Class 5A, District 7.

1. Plant City (17-2)

This week: Tuesday at Wharton; Thursday vs. Spoto

Scoop: Last week, the offense got back on track, scoring a combined 26 runs in wins over Bloomingdale, East Bay and Brandon. The victory over the Bulls clinched the No. 1 seed in the Class 8A, District 6 tournament, which starts next week. Morgan Slater is on a 14-game hitting streak and has boosted her average to .429.

2. Newsome (18-2)

This week: Tuesday at Chamberlain; Thursday at Durant

Scoop: In a rematch of last year’s state semifinal game, the Wolves lost to Hagerty in the opening round of the Kissimmee Klassic. Newsome came back to beat Marist from Chicago and Winter Springs before the tournament was rained out. Maggie Trgo is hitting .500 with 10 RBIs and Brooke Leistl has scored 27 runs with 13 stolen bases.

3. Springstead (21-1)

This week: Thursday vs. Central; Friday vs. Hernando

Scoop: The Eagles extended their bay area-best win streak to 17 games with victories over Lecanto and Dunnellon. Against the Panthers, Kama Woodall pitched a complete game with 13 strikeouts and was 1-for-2 at the plate with a home run and two RBIs.

4. Land O’Lakes (20-2-1)

This week: Tuesday vs. Fivay; Wednesday at Ridgewood …

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