TRINITY — When Mitchell exited the Class 4A playoffs last season with a 2-0 region final loss to eventual state champion Dunnellon, it seemed like the best chance to play for a state title might have gone with it.
With four seniors graduated, including last year’s workhorse pitcher Cortney Radke — now at the University of North Florida — the offseason raised many questions about who would step up and fill Radke’s shoes.
And those are some big shoes to fill. Radke was 18-3 and struck out 252 batters last year.
The 2010 team allowed just 21 runs total, but this season’s Mustangs yielded eight runs in their first three games. An early-season 8-2 loss to Wiregrass Ranch left some wondering if this would be Mitchell’s down year.
Not so fast on that assumption.
The Mustangs have bounced back with impressive wins over county power Pasco (1-0) and Gulf (10-0). Those shutouts were a product of solid pitching from junior Cori Williams, who last season was in more of a relief role .
“(Radke) definitely earned all the accolades she got last year,” Williams said. “This is a big step from last year. It’s a big responsibility for me and I’m actually loving it. I think that first game versus Wiregrass, we just took them just a little bit too lightly because we haven’t played them in a while. Our defense has played lights out and I’m so proud of the way we’ve been playing.”
Williams’ early success on the mound can be attributed to her offseason training and travel ball play . And Radke’s father, Dave, is on the Mustangs’ coaching staff and has offered plenty of helpful tips .
“(Dave Radke) has helped me so much mentally and physically,” Williams said. “He’s so supportive of me and Jordan (Fowler), our other pitcher. It’s just so great to have him around and have him teach us everything he taught Cortney.”
Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe isn’t asking Williams to be a clone of Radke .
“Well, they both love striking people out,” Bisbe said. “They’re two totally different girls. Cori plays with a lot of emotion and Cortney was like nails. You could put Cortney in a bases loaded, no outs and she would be, like, okay. But I think Cori has worked very hard this offseason on the mental aspect, and she’s grown up a lot since last season.”
And Williams is getting control of her nerves. Against Pasco, she allowed only four hits and struck out 11 in a closely contested matchup.
“It may have not looked like it but I was so nervous before that game,” Williams said. “Every single pitch I threw I thought I might miss my spot. I’m so happy we won that game.
“Towards the end I was pitching with so much confidence. That was one of the best games I’ve ever thrown.”
Williams is starting to get attention from colleges like the University of Tampa, Tennessee Tech and Florida Atlantic. And who know, by the time Williams graduates, she may have fans talking about who will be filling her big shoes on the mound.