SPRING HILL — Springstead rode standout pitcher Lexi Adams and a star-studded infield to set school records in wins (21) and consecutive victories (15) last season while securing the school’s first district title since 2003.
This spring, almost all of the key parts are back with three promising freshmen. The injection of youth into a veteran lineup has the Eagles aiming even higher in 2012.
“We’re gonna be sick,” Adams said.
Adams will lead the charge. The strong senior posted a 1.01 ERA last season while striking out 164 batters.
“She’s a great pitcher. There’s no doubt about that. …” coach Craig Swartout said. “When she’s on the mound, it’s laser-beam focus.”
Adams said her defense makes her even better. Shortstop Brittany Martinez is one of the North Suncoast’s top defensive players with great range and a strong arm. Second baseman Lizzy Markidis and third baseman Hailey Drawe also shined last season.
“I think we work well together,” Markidis said.
Adams’ pitching and the Eagles’ standout defense fueled each other. If the fielders made a mistake, Springstead knew Adams could strike out the next batter to get out of the jam. If Adams gave up a hit, she knew her defense would bail her out.
“If they hit it in the infield, it doesn’t bother me at all. …” Adams said. “I don’t really get nervous about it.”
That confidence has spread throughout the team, including freshman first baseman/pitcher Louisa Disi.
Disi said she was nervous early in her first high school game over the weekend, a preseason matchup with Ridgewood. She settled down after the first inning or two when she realized how good the defense was behind her, then finished with a no-hitter.
“It felt good,” said Disi, as she smiled from Springstead’s dugout before practice this week.
Disi is part of a small but strong freshman class that will fill some holes.
Swartout said Springstead has upgraded with freshman Brooke Fischbach at catcher. Shelbi Ard is one of the team’s most athletic girls and could play most positions, but Swartout is sliding her into the outfield to replace a depleted lineup.
“This has an opportunity to be a real special class,” Swartout said of his freshmen. “It’s not a big class, but every one of the players is legit.”
The Eagles advanced to last year’s region quarterfinals before falling to Durant. Springstead has the potential to fare even better this year, despite the loss of Shannon Cataldo, who signed with Warner University, and Ashley Brass.
Springstead’s outfielders are inexperienced but athletic enough to overcome it, Swartout said. The biggest challenge will be in how a core group of juniors and seniors meshes with newcomers.
“Sometimes when you have a mix of veterans with real young players, it takes a little while to jell,” Swartout said.
But if it does, the Eagles could repeat as one of the North Suncoast’s top teams.
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Players to watch
Ashlynn Johnson, Fivay: The Seminole State recruit led the Falcons with a .348 average and six doubles last year.
Cori Williams, Mitchell: The Morehead State recruit was an all-North Suncoast pitcher last season, striking out 150 batters and posting an 11-5 record and 2.07 ERA.
Courtney Durbin, Sunlake: The senior outfielder led the Seahawks with 34 runs last year. She also batted .460, knocked in 25 runs and stole 15 bases.
Courtney Riddle, Hernando: The pitcher put up strong numbers as a freshman: 8-4 record, 2.43 ERA and no home runs allowed.
Mary Sorgenfrei, Wiregrass Ranch: The second baseman/pitcher led the Bulls with a .434 batting average during her junior season.
For the fans
Regular season: A team may not play more than 25 games, including tournaments. The regular season ends April 14.
Playoffs: District tournaments are April 16-20. The 16 winners and 16 runnersup from each classification advance to regionals, which begin April 25. The final four teams from the eight classifications advance to the state tournament May 7-14 in Clermont.