HomeTeam 25: Softball players to watch

Wesley Chapel's Jordan Almasy (25) pitches during a district game at River Ridge last season.  (Times file, 2017)
Wesley Chapel's Jordan Almasy (25) pitches during a district game at River Ridge last season. (Times file, 2017)
Published February 14
Updated February 14

P Jordan Almasy, So., Wesley Chapel: The Central Florida commit's performance as a freshman was a big reason the Wildcats had their best season in school history. Almasy went 13-6 with a 2.59 ERA and 130 strikeouts in leading Wesley Chapel to the Class 6A region semifinals.

P Savannah Bennett, Jr., Palm Harbor University: The Tampa Bay Times' Pinellas County pitcher of the year is back after going 11-1 with a 1.18 ERA to help the Hurricanes reach the Class 9A state title game.

RELATED: Palm Harbor U. ace Savannah Bennett a study in perseverance

IF Bre Blankenship, Sr., River Ridge: The Southern Mississippi commit hit a team-leading .483 with 20 RBIs for the Royal Knights and will be counted on as one of the leaders this season.

IF Brooke Blankenship, Fr., Academy at the Lakes: The FSU commit, one of the nation's top players in the 2021 class, can put up big numbers at the plate. Last season, she hit .522 with six home runs and 35 RBIs. She also is stellar in the field.

P Ashley Blessin, Jr., Plant City: The Marshall commit was named the Tampa Bay Times' Hillsborough County pitcher of the year for the second straight season after leading the Raiders to their first state semifinal appearance. Blessin finished her sophomore season with a 22-3 record, 0.54 ERA and 231 strikeouts. She had the seventh-lowest ERA and the sixth-most strikeouts in the state.

C Chloe Boos, Jr., Academy of the Holy Names: The Jaguars will count on Boos even more after graduating so many starters from last season's state semifinal team. Boos is capable of putting up big numbers. Last season, she hit .478 with five home runs and 22 RBIs.

Holy Names catcher Chloe Boos (40) hits a low grounder toward rightfield in last year’s Class 4A state semifinal vs. Oxbridge Academy. (Times file, 2017)

OF Jessica Bryson, Jr., River Ridge: The Louisiana-Monroe commit uses her speed to her advantage. She hit .470 with a team-leading 17 stolen bases in helping the Royal Knights stay in contention for a playoff berth last season.

OF Mia Buffano, Jr., Palm Harbor University: Since committing to Florida before her freshman season, Buffano has been the big bat in the Hurricanes' lineup. She is coming off a strong sophomore season in which she hit .426 with eight homers and 36 RBIs for the Class 9A state finalists.

C/IF Rebecca Catarelli, Jr., Osceola: The power hitter had a breakout season last year, hitting .512 with seven homers and 33 RBIs. She is among a handful of Warriors who can launch softballs out of the park.

IF/P Kayla Cruz, Sr., Springstead: The North Florida signee becomes the ace for the Eagles with Kama Woodall graduating. Last season, Cruz went 5-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 52 strikeouts. She had an even bigger impact at the plate, hitting .430 with two homers and 32 RBIs.

P Mary Beth Feldman, Jr., Newsome: The Utah commit took over the role as the team's ace last season and went 7-2 with a 1.96 ERA and 114 strikeouts to help the Wolves make the playoffs as a district runnerup.

IF Kristina Foreman, Sr., Berkeley Prep: The Duke signee can blast softballs out of the park. Last season, she hit .568 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs and is the top returning player for the Buccaneers.

IF Alex Hare, Jr., Mitchell: The Alabama State commit hit .402 with three homers and 28 RBIs for the district champion Mustangs. This past summer we profiled Hare and her family on the pricey pursuit of athletic scholarships.

P Alexis Kilfoyl, Jr., Academy at the Lakes: The Alabama commit was named the top prospect in the country for the 2019 class by FloSoftball. Last season, she was 16-3 with a 0.85 and 201 strikeouts while leading the Wildcats to the Class 2A region final.

P Alexys Lawson, Sr., Bloomingdale: The Florida International signee developed into one of the best power pitchers in the state last season with an impressive 230 strikeouts and is one of the reasons the Bulls will be a playoff contender.

C Kaia LoPreste, Jr., Riverview: The FSU commit was a bright spot for the Sharks, who struggled last season. She hit .514 with four homers and 27 RBIs and will be key in helping Riverview turn things around.

IF/P Mariah Melendez, Sr., Sunlake: The Ave Maria signee can play multiple positions. Last season, she was 6-4 with a 2.61 ERA and hit .386 for the district runner Seahawks.

RELATED: After taste of playoffs, Sunlake hungry for more

P Haley Murphy, Sr., East Bay: After transferring from Riverview, Murphy continued to put up strong numbers with the Indians, going 16-6 with a 1.33 ERA and recording 177 strikeouts as a junior.

C Paige Pfent, Sr., Springstead: With Kama Woodall now at North Carolina State, Pfent will play an even bigger role as an offensive threat and helping a revamped pitching staff. Last season, the North Florida signee hit .460 with six home runs and 36 RBIs.

RELATED: Same expectations despite personnel changes at Springstead

SS Alexa Russo, Jr., Tampa Catholic: The USF commit played a key role in the Crusaders winning a district title and advancing to the region finals last year. Russo hit .467 with three homers and 34 RBIs

P Ali Shenefield, Jr., Hernando: The Rollins commit is no longer under the radar, especially after she led the Leopards to the Class 5A region final. Her breakout season included a 1.59 ERA and 205 strikeouts.

P Callie Turner, Jr., Land O'Lakes: The Tennessee commit was the Tampa Bay Times' North Suncoast pitcher of the year after leading the Gators to the Class 6A state title. She is ranked as the nation's 14th best prospect in the 2019 class by FloSoftball.  Last season, Turner led the state in ERA (0.21) and was fifth in strikeouts (249) despite missing nearly two weeks while recovering from a back injury.

Land O’Lakes pitcher Callie Turner (20) celebrates the end of the Class 6A softball title game vs. American Heritage last season. (Times file, 2017)

RELATED: Land O'Lakes takes down powerhouse Plantation American Heritage for title

P Gabby Vallee, Sr., Chamberlain: After helping the Chiefs reach the region semifinals for the second straight season, Vallee will be relied even more as she teams with Shannon Maloney on the mound.

P Megan Weisenberg, Sr., Osceola: Despite battling through injuries, the Emory commit still had a solid junior season, going 12-6 with a 1.56 ERA and 46 strikeouts. She also hit .426 with four homers and 20 RBIs.

IF/P Shelby Westbrook, Jr., Land O'Lakes: The Ball State commit is one of the most versatile players in the area. Last season, she hit .400 with 15 RBIs and also pitched some in relief of Callie Turner, going 6-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 58 strikeouts for the state champion Gators.

SS Tia Williams, Sr., Land O'Lakes: The Nova Southeastern signee was the Tampa Bay Times' North Suncoast player of the year because of her strong postseason performance during the Gators' run to a state title. She was a combined 5-for-7 with two RBIs in the state semifinal and final.

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