LAND O' LAKES – A year after going 0-4 against Land O' Lakes, including one-run decisions in both the district final and region playoffs, River Ridge was out to change things Tuesday.
Thanks to one big hit from a freshman, and seven cool innings from a sophomore, it happened.
"This changes it all," said Melanie Rogers, who shut out the HomeTeam top-ranked Gators 2-0. Rogers struck out nine on a three-hitter.
The Royal Knights (4-0) got the better of Callie Turner in one inning. Otherwise Turner, also a sophomore, was spectacular. The lefty struck out 17, including eight batters in a row in one stretch.
River Ridge only had two batted balls for outs; the other two were a pickoff and a thrown-out base stealer, both courtesy catcher Brianna Lindner.
While Turner overwhelmed River Ridge with heat, Rogers mixed things up.
"My best pitches were my curve and my drop. I just stayed relaxed and pitched," she said.
She also had some great defense behind her. First baseman Bre Blankenship snuffed out two would-be rally starters, making a tough play on a bunt after Ashley Smith singled with one out in the second inning, and diving forward to snag a tricky blooper in the fifth. …Full Story
PALM HARBOR – For five innings, Palm Harbor University struggled on offense, managing just one hit off East Lake freshman Tori Brennan.
Still, Hurricanes coach Kerry Katchuk was not concerned. The lineup was making contact. He figured it was only a matter of time before the hits started coming.
The hits came – four straight – in the sixth inning, all with two outs.
Taylor Scott singled, then came home on a double by Mia Buffano to start the rally. Buffano scored on Taylor Norwood’s double to tie the score. Norwood scored the go-ahead run on a single by Faith Allen.
That also turned out to be the winner. The Hurricanes held on to beat their rival 3-2.
“We played 10 sophomores and one freshman (pinch-runners included),” Katchuk said. “We’re a young team, but we kept battling and battling. I think we only had two strikeouts in the first five innings so I felt like we would start hitting the ball.”
PHU took its lumps last season and missed the playoffs in an ultra-competitive district (Class 9A-8) that includes the 2015 state champion (Newsome) and the defending state finalist (Alonso). But the Hurricanes (7-1) are starting to put things together this season. …Full Story
The Senior Soccer Challenge between Hillsborough and Pinellas County boys and girls teams will be held on Friday at Countryside. The girl’s game starts at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 8. Admission is $10, $7 for students.
Here are the rosters for each team:
Hillsborough Girls: Allyson Abbey, Ellie Abdoney, Alexandra Atenza, Mia Brantley, Valentina Estrada, Lauren Evans, Kyndall Fry, Sarah Harrison, Catherine Headley, Sarah, Jennewein, Robyn Larson, Ellie Laxer, Stephanie Linton, Taryn Magadan, Freyda Mannering, Hannah Menendez, Claire Morrison, Erika Peterson, Julia Petrillo, Sophie Robertson, Madison Rowe, Addison Ura. Head Coach: Denis Vukorep
Pinellas Girls: Anotinette Barnes, Josie Barnhart, Pamela Breda, Catherine Burke, Kaylyn Burroughs, Lille Della Penna, Hannah Deson, Melanie Diaz, Alexandra Glass, Gabrielle John, Amanda Johnson, Kristin Kelly, Nicole Levine, Teegan Payne, Leah Pecora, Katie Peterson, Natalee Slater, Meg Stevenson, K.B. Wiener, Delight Williams, Sophie Wiltshire, Allyssa Woodring. Heach coach: John Planamenta. …Full Story
The Pinellas Senior All Star game will be held on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Keswick Christian. There will be an alumni game prior to the game at 5:30. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students. Here are the teams:
Elise Cauthen—Indian Rocks Christian
Kiana Chew—Palm Harbor University
Madison Hayner—East Lake
Tia Tucker—Tarpon Springs (Alternate)
Annah DeVries—Indian Rocks Christian
Asia Nguyen—Dixie Hollins
Cheyenne Livernois—Palm Harbor University
Nicole Nanos—Palm Harbor University (Atleternate)Full Story
SPRING HILL – Armed with a roster full of talented veterans and promising newcomers, Springstead entered the season ranked No. 1 in the HomeTeam top 25.
The Eagles' stay at the top lasted only a week. After routing Central 19-0 in the season opener, Springstead lost 3-2 to Class 6A, District rival Dunnellon.
That loss turned out to be a good thing. Since then, the Eagles have regained their focus with wins against South Lake (5-0) and Citrus (13-1).
The momentum continued Monday as Springstead beat previously undefeated Academy of the Holy Names 3-0.
“Academy is always a good team,” Eagles coach Craig Swartout said. “They’re always tough every time we play them. I knew it was going to come down to whoever made a clutch hit or a big defensive play.”
In the third inning, Abby Oliver doubled, then came home on single by Kayla Cruz for what turned out to be the winning run.
Kama Woodall did the rest. The ace, who has signed with North Carolina State, threw a six-hit shutout and had eight strikeouts.
Woodall has some familiarity with the Jaguars’ lineup. She played three seasons at Canterbury before transferring to Springstead last season and has faced Holy Names frequently during her career. …Full Story
Andy Warrener | Special to the Times
This slam opened up a claw for PHU's Gavin Mitchiner to win the 145 title by pin fall.
LAKELAND — George Jenkins hosted the Class 3A, Region 2 meet after Osceola Kissimmee passed the torch, having hosted it for years prior. The Kowboys performed just as well away as they typically do at home, taking the region title with 158.5 points. Manatee was second with 140 and Strawberry Crest took third with 136.3. Palm Harbor University was fourth with 105.5.
The Kowboys led the field all weekend. The battle for second between Crest and Manatee went back and forth. Through the consolation quarterfinals, the Chargers led the Hurricanes 111-110. Heading into the third-place and championship finals, the Hurricanes led 122-121 but Manatee won all of their finals matches and managed to outpace the upstart Chargers.
“I wanted to prove something, especially to some of these older guys,” Chargers coach CJ Gittens said. …Full Story
BRANDON — Having been a runnerup to Lake Gibson in the Class 2A, District 7 tournament for a second straight season, Brandon was perilously close to settling for second to the Braves in the Class 2A, Region 2 tourney for the second year in a row.
Not so fast.
The host Eagles overcame an 11.5 deficit in the final round to win Saturday’s regional, outscoring Lake Gibson by a slim 186-183.5 margin.
Afterward, Brandon coach Russ Cozart drew on three other sports in comparing his team’s late rally to a Hail Mary touchdown pass, winning basket at the buzzer and grand slam in the ninth inning.
“Usually, this type of wrestling is very, very close; a nail-biter the whole time,” Cozart said.
For Cozart’s wrestlers, it was especially rewarding to come back against Lake Gibson, which last season halted Brandon’s run of 26 consecutive region titles as well its string of 41 straight district crowns.
“It’s really healthy,” Cozart said of the Eagles’ rivalry with the Braves. “We’re not quite friends, but we’re not quite enemies. Their team is great.” …Full Story
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, Feb. 18 through Friday, Feb. 24. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.
Tiasia McMillan, basketball, Carrollwood Day: In the Class 3A state semifinal, the junior forward scored 22 points and made 9 of 14 shots in a 73-37 win over Bradenton Christian.
Abby Oliver, softball, Springstead: The senior was 2-for-4 with a double and a home run, and had two RBIs in a 5-0 win over South Lake. The victory helped the Eagles rebound from a loss to Dunnellon.
Toi Smith, basketball, Lakewood: The junior power forward had 20 points, 15 in the second half, and 12 rebounds in the Spartans’ 74-59 win over Ponte Vedra in the Class 6A state semifinals.
JoJo Stanton, softball, Pinellas Park: The junior’s two-run single in the second inning was all the offense the Patriots needed in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Boca Ciega.
Savyon Toombs, track, Hillsborough: The senior swept the sprints at last weekend’s Charles Johnson Invitational, winning the 100 in 12.06 and 200 in 24.65. …Full Story
PLANT CITY – For most of the year, Sloan Hammons and Edmilly Molina are teammates. They play together on the Florida Impact travel team that won the 16-under ASA national title two years ago.
Once high school season starts, they are opponents who play for schools that are bitter rivals. Hammons is a pitcher for Durant. Molina is a third baseman for Plant City.
On Thursday, the teams renewed their annual grudge match in a key Class 8A, District 6 contest.
Molina often is the catcher for Hammons on their travel team. So Molina was able to offer a detailed scouting report to her high school teammates. Not that it really mattered.
After all, Hammons knows Molina’s game, too.
Molina had the better result, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs to lead the Raiders to a 2-0 victory.
“It’s nerve-wracking and you have to stay extra focus playing against her,” Molina said of Hammons. “You think you know what she’s going to throw but she can always catch you off-guard.”
The strategy was to be patient at the plate. Plant City (4-0) wanted to take as many pitches as possible to figure out a pattern against Hammons, who has already signed with Florida Atlantic. …Full Story
Andy Warrener | Special to the Times
Northeast's Isaih Wilson scored a pin to set the table for the Vikings.
DUNEDIN — The Northeast Vikings have been having a tremendous season. They won their first St. Pete City title in a decade in January. They were runners-up to Palm Harbor University at PCAC.
On Satruday, they broke through for their first district title in a decade and first under coach Robert Wilson. It was a four-horse race all the way. Dixie Hollins led through the opening rounds. Through the championship semifinals, host Dunedin moved in front. The Falcons put six wrestlers into the finals to Northeast’s four but the Vikings came back strong in the consolation semifinals. East Lake was third, just three points separating the top spots. Another big round in the third-place finals, where the Vikings scored five wins, set them up 168.5 to Dunedin’s 151.5 heading into the championship finals.
When sophomore Isiah Wilson pinned Dunedin’s Dominic Molinari in the 106 final, it gave the Vikings the margin they needed to hold off Dunedin, who went on to win four individual titles. Final tally was Northeast 180.5, Dunedin 172, East Lake 160 and Dixie 147.5. …Full Story
BROOKSVILLE – It took five years of hard work and dedication, but Hernando coach David Pritz finally got the Leopards back to where the program was when he was still sporting one of the school’s singlets.
Hernando hosted and won the Class A, District 6 championship on Saturday, the first such title for the program since the Leopards won three straight from 2003-05.
The Leopards (218.5 points) qualified all 14 members of its lineup for next week’s Class A, Region 2 meet in Titusville, including earning five individual gold medals along the way. Leading Hernando was state hopeful Codey Maniates (152 pounds). The senior won his first district title after a runner-up performance last season, running his record for the campaign to 43-6.
Other winners for the Leopards included Josh Hulse (120), Yovanny Rodriguez (126), Devin Dennis (170), and Keegan O’Rourke (285). Rodriguez, who lost in the finals to Weeki Wachee’s Nick Marsh last season, beat his rival in the semifinals before polishing off Anclote’s Alex Roberds by 13-5 major decision in the title bout. …Full Story
TAMPA — Host Jesuit had six finalists in Saturday’s Class 2A, District 8 tournament and came away with four champions. That impressive outing, however, was not enough to prevent Robinson from winning the title.
Jesuit, which had won nine of the past 10 district tourneys, finished as the runnerup with 159.5 points. Robinson, which totaled 194.5, won its first district crown since 2013. Robinson also won a district title in 2009 and was a runnerup in 2011 and 2012.
Land O’Lakes, which tied Jesuit with four individual champions, placed third at 146.5.
Depth was a key for the Knights, who matched the Tigers with six finalists and earned points in all 14 weight classes.
“The first two rounds we went up there pinning people,” Robinson coach Tom Montero said. “I think it played a factor in having a full lineup.”
Robinson’s lone championship came in the 220-pound final with Devin Jandura earning a 12-1 major decision against Jefferson’s Vaughn Williams. Robinson’s other finalists were Isaac Guillermo (106), Josian Casianos (126), Cody Davidson (152), Deshawn Weathers (170) and Jaquan Jackson (182). …Full Story
BRANDON — The Class 2A, District 7 tournament came down to a close race between host Brandon and defending champion Lake Gibson. And just like last season when Brandon’s string of 41 district titles ended, Lake Gibson won again.
The Braves tallied 234 points behind five champions and 10 finalists while the Eagles scored 228.5 on the strength of eight finalists and four champions. Wesley Chapel took third at 128.5 and Pasco was fourth with 91.5.
“They did a good job,” Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. “Hats off to them. They came out ahead. It was a lot of fun. The kids were into it.”
For his part, Lake Gibson coach Danny Walker said topping Brandon for the second year in a row was tougher than ending the Eagles’ streak last season.
“Again, it was a lot like last year,” he said. “It was nip-and-tuck. You could tell (the Eagles) were trying to get every bonus point they could.” …Full Story
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, Feb. 11 through Friday, Feb. 17. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.
Natalie Abernathy, track, Land O’Lakes: The sophomore soccer standout won the 3,200 at the Early Bird Invitational in 11:20.01, more that 24 seconds faster than her time at state last year.
Brooke Blankenship, softball, Academy at the Lakes: The eighth-grader started the season strong by going 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and a home run in a 6-1 win over Carrollwood Day.
Avree Carpenter, basketball, Seffner Christian: Teammate Chelsie Hall is the big scoring threat, but Carpenter proved she can score, too, in the Crusaders’ region final win. Her 15 points to help Seffner Christian advance to the state tournament.
Julia Ingram, basketball, Palm Harbor University: The senior ended her high school career with a bang. She scored 44 points in an 81-62 loss to Naples Gulf Coast in the Class 8A region finals. …Full Story
Brooke Sibert has stepped down as girls basketball coach at Calvary Christian after seven seasons. Sibert has a career record of 127-51 and led the Warriors to their first ever state tournament in 2013. Overall, Calvary Christian won four straight district titles from 2013-16 and made two state semifinals under Sibert.
This past season, the Warriors were 11-11. Sibert coached only half the season after giving birth to her second child in January.
“I love coaching but for me it’s all about my two kids,’’ Sibert said. “My little ones need me. It’s something I knew I would do. I kind of told the girls in December that this would happen. I didn’t want to make it about me. I wanted them to continue on and keep getting better.’’
Sibert was a teacher at Skycrest Elementary in Clearwater but stopped teaching when her first child was born nearly two years ago. She is married to Caleb Sibert, who is also a teacher at Calvary Christian and the head volleyball coach. Caleb Sibert will continue coaching and teaching at the school. …Full Story