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Softball notebook: East Bay ends mini skid

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Wed. March 19, 2014 | Matt Baker | Email

East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez wasn’t sure what to expect from his team Tuesday night.

His Indians have talent — they started the year 3-0 — but had struggled since. The previous weekend, they ended spring break with a 1-3 record at Palm Harbor University’s tournament.

“I didn’t know how we’d react after having a terrible week,” Rodriguez said. “Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong for us.”

But East Bay’s fortune seemed to shift Tuesday with a 5-4 win over a good Newsome team in eight innings.

Taylor Baker starred with a three-run double early and 11 strikeouts at pitcher. East Bay (7-6) kept its composure in the extra inning to take advantage of Newsome mistakes. Hannah Perez’s infield hit resulted in two errors, which eventually scored Hannah Heatherley for the winning run.

For Rodriguez, the win was a validation of some unlucky breaks and untimely hitting and, perhaps, a sign of things to come as the Indians enter the meat of their Class 7A, District 7 schedule.

“We’re hoping that win (Tuesday) was what we needed to turn things back around,” Rodriguez said.

Chargers get revenge, trophy: Strawberry Crest dominated its four games at a strong Sarasota Slam Tournament, cruising to the title and avenging its only loss of the season in the championship game.

Its statistics were daunting: 40 runs scored, seven home runs and 32 strikeouts. The Chargers’ closest victory was a 6-2 win over Lakewood Ranch, a team that’s reached the last two state semifinals.

The championship was made even sweeter with a 12-0 win over Bloomingdale in five innings, after the Bulls gave Strawberry Crest its only loss, a 6-3 defeat last month. USF recruit Mia Fung starred, going 3-for-3 with a home run, two doubles and three RBIs against Bloomingdale.

Cacey Simmons was one of the team’s top hitters, blasting two home runs and batting in eight runs during the weekend for the Chargers (12-1), which jumped to No. 5 in this week’s Class 7A Miracle Sports poll.

Bloomingdale, however, finds itself in an unfamiliar position: trying to rebound from a loss.

Lace Smith threw a no-hitter and struck out 13 batters in a 4-0 win over Land O’Lakes and added 10 more strikeouts against Sarasota.

The Bulls — ranked fourth in 8A — will try to get back on track Friday with a Class 8A, District 7 showdown against Plant.

Youth movement: After Seffner Christian’s pitching staff suffered a preseason injury, eighth graders Maddie Cates and Rachel Seifert became even more important.

They haven’t disappointed. The two have fueled the Crusaders’ 10-1 start and helped them to a No. 5 ranking in Class 3A.

Cates is 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA, while Seifert is 5-1 with 38 strikeouts through her first 39 innings. Another eighth grader, Celia Higgins, starts at shortstop and bats cleanup with a .533 average and 13 RBIs.

“We still may be a little young this year, but we have a lot of young talent,” coach Gary Blessin said.

Seffner Christian only has two seniors, and two of its other most prolific players are still adjusting to high school. Freshman Anna Wellen is among the team’s leaders with a .481 average and 10 RBIs, and sophomore catcher Brooke Boyce is batting .348 while handling the Crusaders’ two eighth-grade aces.

State rankings: Strawberry Crest (12-1) has risen to 7A’s No. 5 team in the Miracle Sports poll. Cambridge Christian (7-4) is ninth in 2A, and Carrollwood Day sits just outside the top 10 in 3A.

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

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