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Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons

HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay

Newsome returns a lot of firepower from the team that won Class 8A a year ago.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Special to the Times

Newsome returns a lot of firepower from the team that won Class 8A a year ago.



1. Newsome

This week: Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay Tech; Thursday vs. Robinson

Scoop: The defending state champion from Class 8A move up to 9A and is favored to win another title with the return of five players who have signed with Division I-A programs – Cassidy Davis (Florida State), Claire Feldman (Utah), Brooke Leistl (USF), Hannah Pridemore (Duke) and Annie Tarte (Yale). Feldman was the Tampa Bay Times’ Hillsborough County pitcher of year last season after going 10-3 with a 0.80 ERA and 155 strikeouts. Pridemore hit safely in her final 13 games last season and finished with a .526 average. Davis led the team in RBIs (24) and home runs (four) and is a solid pitcher. MaxPreps has the Wolves ranked second overall in the state regardless of classification.

2. Gaither

This week: Tuesday at Jefferson; Friday at Tampa Bay Tech

Scoop: The Cowboys are loaded with pitching and quality bats in the lineup. Hailee DeCicco, who finished last season with a 0.74 ERA, is the ace of a staff that includes Sammi Grat and Gabrielle Vallee. Two seniors who have already signed with Division 1-A programs, Elizabeth Mason (FSU) and Bethany Kursch (Jacksonville), lead the offense. Mason had a team-high .600 average last season and Kursch was tops in RBIs (18) and home runs (four). With that much power returning, Gaither will be a heavy favorite to get back to the playoffs after missing out a year ago.

3. Chamberlain

This week: Tuesday at Alonso

Scoop: Last season, the Chiefs had two starters quit and were left with just two seniors on the roster during their stretch run toward the Class 6A state championship game. One of those seniors was Jenna Brownell, the Times’ Hillsborough County player of the year who is now at North Florida. The offense can still produce with Reganne McCarl (.394 average) and Hope Hernandez (.385) both returning. Shannon Maloney, a sophomore who pitched nearly every postseason game and finished with 102 strikeouts, is back as the ace.

4. Canterbury

This week: No games

Scoop: The Crusaders’ bid to win their third straight state title last year ended with a loss to Aucilla Christian in the Class 2A state semifinals. To get back to state, Canterbury will have to make up for the loss of its top pitchers, Kama Woodall and Hailey Hopkins. Woodall, the Times’ Pinellas County pitcher of the year the past two seasons, transferred to Springstead, her zoned school. Hopkins graduated and is now playing at Akron. The Crusader offense will still have firepower with the return of juniors Danielle Romanello (Florida) and Taylor Bump (Michigan). Lindsey Graves returns after deciding not to play last season and adds another solid bat at the top of the lineup.

5. Plant

This week: Thursday at East Bay

Scoop: There is a lot of optimism with the Panthers, who had only one senior (Danielle Scott) on last year’s team that won two big tournament titles (PHU and Kissimmee Klassic) and advanced to the 8A region quarterfinals. Rachel Heuker (.432 average, 14 RBIs), Kayla McGory (.400, nine 2Bs) and Caroline Grieves (.325, 27 RBIs) are all back. So are the top three pitchers – Danielle Tringali (1.41 ERA, 89 Ks), McKenzee Herron (1.52 ERA) and Dana Rowley (1.88 ERA).    

6. Land O’Lakes

This week: Tuesday vs. Springstead; Friday at Mitchell

Scoop: Last year, the Gators had one of the area’s best records (24-3) but were upset by River Ridge in the district semifinals and missed the playoffs. The painful memory of falling short serves as a powerful motivator for a team that returns nearly every major contributor. Shannon Saile, a senior who has signed with FIU, is back on the mound. She went 15-3 last year with 141 strikeouts. Two other seniors, Tayler Holt (.534 average, 21 RBIs) and Kendall Tipton (.426, 21 RBIs), lead the offense.

7. Nature Coast

This week: Tuesday vs. Weeki Wachee; Friday at Hernando

Scoop: After starting 20-3 last season, the Sharks lost three of their last four, including the district final and region quarterfinal. The good news is that Nature Coast returns plenty of talent. Abbey Primavera is back on the mound. She went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA and hit .439. Celine Kordon (.452, 35 RBIs, three HRs) brings some pop to the lineup. Last week, the Sharks beat River Ridge and Zephyrhills by a combined 18-1 in their preseason games.  

8. Osceola

This week: Tuesday at Admiral Farragut; Thursday at St. Petersburg; Friday at Seminole

Scoop: With the bulk of the lineup returning, the Warriors have a good shot at winning a playoff game for just the second time in school history. Osceola loses just one senior from last year’s team that won Pinellas County Athletic Conference and district titles. Megan Weisenberg, the team’s top returning hitter and pitcher, is back. So are infielder Maria Kappos and outfielder Hannah Ciatto, among others. In last week’s preseason games, the Warriors beat Alonso 13-11 and Jefferson 18-3.

9. Steinbrenner

This week: Tuesday vs. King; Friday at Jefferson

Scoop: Last year’s top two hitters – Erica Serafini (.556 average, 22 RBIs) and Lindsay Boynton (.533, 44 RBIs, seven HRs) – graduated, leaving a hole in a potent lineup that slugged its way to an appearance in the Class 7A region finals. Pitching will be the Warriors’ strong suit this season with the return of Nichole McClendon and Emalee Jansen, who went a combined 22-8 in 2015. And there is plenty of offensive talent left. Daniela Bautista returns after hitting .367 with 25 RBIs. So does Megan Pierro, a sophomore who already has committed to USF.

10. Springstead

This week: Tuesday at Land O’Lakes; Friday vs. Citrus

Scoop: Louisa Disi, the Times’ North Suncoast pitcher of the year, is one of seven senior starters who graduated. But the Eagles should suffer no dropoff on the mound with the addition of Kama Woodall, the former Canterbury standout who transferred to her zoned school in August. On offense, Springstead is led by Abby Oliver (.427, 18 RBIs) and  Paige Pfent (.417, 29 RBIs).

11. Seminole

This week: Friday vs. Osceola

Scoop: The Warhawks have one of the deepest staffs in the area thanks to the return of their top two pitchers – Savannah Farkas and Jordan Day – from last year’s district runnerup team. Brooke McEntire also can pitch but is known for her hitting. In a 6-1 preseason win over Palm Harbor University last week, McEntire hit .667 with two RBIs.

12. Academy of the Holy Names

This week: Tuesday at Calvary Christian; Thursday at Tampa Prep

Scoop: Losing leadoff Julia Schifino is tough, but the Jaguars return nearly everyone else from a team that went to the playoffs for the fourth straight season and made the region finals. Haley Morrell, a junior who had a .429 average, returns to lead an offense that averaged seven runs per game during AHN’s district tournament and playoff run.

13. Countryside

This week: Tuesday vs. Dunedin; Friday vs. Clearwater

Scoop: The Cougars had four seniors who signed last week – Stella Preston (Mercer), Cheyenne Blumberg (Columbia College), Brooke Sharpe (Ava Maria) and Kayla Sanchez (St. Petersburg College). Preston will still do the bulk of the pitching but Jordan Lewis, a junior, has made tremendous strides and is a solid second option. Megan Jankiewicz (.417) and Emily Hollenbeck (21 RBIs) also return on a team that won a district title and advanced to the region semifinals last season.

14. Palm Harbor University

This week: Monday at Clearwater; Saturday vs. Lake Howell (at Lake Mary Early Bird Tournament)

Scoop: There is no way to replace Logyn Lilley, the Times’ Pinellas County player of the year who now is at Tennessee. Lilley set all sorts of county and school records on offense. But the Hurricanes have enough returning from last year’s team that made the 8A region semifinals to make another playoff run. Baily Wilson, Kelsy Levee and Taylor Scott all hit above .400. Scott also is the top returning pitcher. PHU is bolstered by a stellar freshman class that includes centerfielder Mia Buffano, who already has committed to Florida. The Hurricanes opened the season with a 16-0 win over Clearwater. Scott and Savannah Bennett combined on a no-hitter.

15. River Ridge

This week: Wednesday vs. Ridgewood

Scoop: The top three hitters from last year’s team that advanced to the Class 5A region final graduated. Still, there is plenty to be excited about with the return of several players who filled in key roles. Anessa Holes, a senior, is the top returning hitter (.425 average) and pitcher (7-2 record, 51 Ks). Breana Blankenship, a sophomore, anchors the infield and will be counted on near the top of the lineup after hitting .406 with 29 RBIs.

16. Plant City

This week: Tuesday at Leto; Friday vs. Hillsborough

Scoop: Three starters graduated from last year’s team that won nine of its last 11 games and made the Class 7A region semifinals. The  biggest loss was Noelle Dietrich who was second on the team in RBIs with 23 and had a team-low 1.88 ERA on the mound. Dietrich pitched in most of the big games down the stretch, so the Raiders may have to win some slugfests this season. The have the offense to do it, led by Edmilly Molina, who hit .512 with 33 RBIs.

17. Mitchell

This week: Tuesday at Fivay; Thursday vs. Land O’Lakes

Scoop: The Mustangs made a surprising late-season run to make the playoffs as a district runnerup. That momentum is buoyed by the return of Kelsea Vanderveer, the team’s top hitter with a .403 average, and Ashley Autuori, the top returning pitcher with a 7-3 record and 0.84 ERA last season.

18. Freedom

This week: Tuesday vs. East Bay; Thursday at Armwood

Scoop: Grace Street graduated, a big loss considering she was the Patriots’ top contributor at the plate (.391 average) and on the mound (0.98 ERA, 92 Ks). But that does not spell doom for Freedom, especially with everyone else back, including Hayley Starkey and Brandee Mull.

19. Wharton

This week: Thursday vs. Durant

Scoop: The Wildcats will be young, especially with pitcher Makaleigh Dooley (1.25 ERA, 83) Ks graduating. Hannah Perkins, a sophomore who went 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA last season, will take over as the main starter. Perkins also is the top returning hitter (4.25 average) and will team with Chloe Lee (.400) for a solid one-two punch offensively.

20. Strawberry Crest

This week: Thursday at Brandon; Friday at Bloomingdale

Scoop: After starting last season 2-6, the Chargers went on a tear by winning 13 of their final 15 games. Five starters graduated, but there were a lot of underclassmen who had significant playing time. Kaylan Kelly is the top returning hitter (.373 average) among the players who had at least 50 at-bats last season. Scottie Todd, who went 13-8 and had 94 Ks, is the ace.

21. East Lake

This week: Tuesday vs. St. Petersburg; Friday-Saturday at Lake Mary Tournament

Scoop: Graduation and transfers took away a lot of depth from a team that lost to Countryside in the district semifinals. The Eagles still have speed at the top of lineup with leadoff hitter Aliyah Andrews, an LSU signee. And there is some power. Nicci Palumbo had three home runs to go along with a team-leading 24 RBIs and 13 2Bs last season. East Lake will try to bounce back after losing to Pinellas Park in the preseason last week.  

22. Leto

This week: Tuesday vs. Plant City

Scoop: The Falcons have to replace Adri Jones, who hit .452 with 33 RBIs while leading the Falcons to their first playoff win in school history. The strength of this year’s team is pitching with Kimberly Dick (1.62 ERA, 71 Ks last season) and Marcella Parrado (7-3, 75 Ks) both returning.  

23. East Bay

This week: Tuesday at Freedom; Thursday vs. Plant

Scoop: Madison Culver, who hit .500 last season with 39 RBIs and six home runs last season, graduated. That’s a lot of production to lose in the lineup, but the Indians still have plenty of bats, led by Juliana Uribe (.405 average last season) and Hannah Perez (27 RBIs).

24. Riverview

This week: Tuesday vs. Robinson

Scoop: The Sharks lose just three seniors from last year’s team that went 16-10. The top returner is Haley Murphy, a sophomore who is one of the top pitchers in the area. Last season, Murphy was 14-9 with a 0.81 ERA and 240 strikeouts.

25. Wiregrass Ranch

This week: Thursday vs. Pasco

Scoop: The Bulls lose five seniors in the lineup, including pitcher Lindsey Snyder and top run producer Elizabeth Diaz. Still, Wiregrass Ranch has enough talent to return to the playoffs. Rea Rupani (.44 average last season) and Jaime Valenta (.444) lead what should be a high-scoring offense.

On the bubble: Alonso, Bloomingdale, Boca Ciega, Hernando, Pinellas Park, Sickles, Tampa Catholic, Tarpon Springs

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 1:02pm]


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