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Hillsborough softball preview: Players to keep an eye on this season

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Tue. February 7, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

Hillsborough softball preview: Players to keep an eye on this season

We admit it, we’re embarking on the 2012 prep softball season a tad behind in the count. Officially, the regular season began Monday, but we’re fighting off that technicality as if it were a pesky rise ball and taking another swing at starting things off with some pop. In light of the fact most teams started play Tuesday, we present (with nary a moment to spare) our Hillsborough County preview:

Preseason super seven
Teams listed with 2011 records
1. Chamberlain (20-7): All the key components are back for a team that under-achieved in 2011
2. Durant (21-9): Everyone’s back except pitcher Lauren Wolfe, and new ace Paige Davis is proven
3. Strawberry Crest (22-3): With a ton of talent back, Chargers should build on their breakthrough 2011 season
4. Sickles (21-9): New district shapes up well for Gryphons, who are loaded offensively
5. Riverview (15-11): This is the year the Sharks return to the county’s upper echelon
6. Plant City (23-7): Battery must be replaced, but this team is too fast and skilled to fall off the map
7. Plant (15-10): Panthers return solid nucleus from team that won 15 of its last 21 games in 2011

Hitting for power
Five sluggers to watch
Bianka Bell, Sr., Chamberlain: Now that she’s healthy again, this LSU signee could wreak tape-measure havoc
Mia Fung, So., Strawberry Crest: Exactly one-third of her 12 extra-base hits were home runs
Morgan Litchfield, Sr., Gaither: Could match last year’s 10-homer output in Cowboys’ hitter-friendly park
Jessica Warren, So., Alonso: Smacked all six of her homers in first 11 games last season
Ashley Wilson, So., Freedom: Hit nearly .600 with four homers as a Patriots rookie

Hitting for percentage
Five kids you can’t allow to get on base
Nina Caisse, Sr., East Bay: Indians veteran hit .437 with 16 steals last year
Jordan LaFave, Sr., Durant: Hit .429 with 10 steals in leadoff spot as junior
Makensie McAvoy, Sr., Plant City: One strikeout in 111 plate appearances in 2011
Lena Rovellada, Sr., Gaither: .527, 25 steals as junior
Kristen Wyckoff, Sr., Plant City: USF commit stole 42 bases last spring

Stack of aces
Five pitchers to watch
Brianna Alonso, Jr., Strawberry Crest: Staggering numbers (20-2, 1.41 ERA) as soph
Rachel Dwyer, Jr., Chamberlain: Had one-hitter vs. Plant, two-hitter vs. Sickles
Emily Gaitan, Jr., Riverview: Sharks’ workhorse averaged a strikeout per inning in 2011
Erika Shick, Sr., Alonso: Opponents hit .204 against this 10-game winner in 2011
Jenny Weissman, Sr., Berkeley Prep: 0.73 ERA, 188 strikeouts in 115 innings

Did you know?
• At a recent practice, Sickles 1B Gisselle Anderson hit a ball off the tee over the left field fence
• Plant will be seeking its 13th consecutive playoff berth
• Chamberlain’s Bianka Bell, an LSU signee, will be the third sibling in her family to play for an SEC school. Her two older sisters play at Mississippi State.
• Strawberry Crest sophomore Mia Fung already has committed to USF, Coach Mindy Miltner says
• After missing part of last season (for personal reasons), Riverview senior Taylor McCoy — the catalyst of the Sharks’ 2009 region finalist team — is back.

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