Pitcher of the Year: Lace Smith, Jr., Bloomingdale
Why we picked her: Smith carried a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year to the Class 8A state championship — the program’s first since 1993. She took a 0.58 ERA into the state semifinals, and she allowed only one earned run in Vero Beach. The right-hander finished the season with 279 strikeouts while walking only 26 batters in 174 innings. Her bat was solid, too — she was among the team’s leaders with a .343 average and three home runs.
Proudest accomplishment: Smith dominated all season but had her best performance in the 8A region quarterfinal. On the road at Sarasota Riverview, she struck out 19 batters and threw a perfect game. “I didn’t know I pitched a perfect game until the end when my coach told me,” Smith said. “I was pretty excited.” She went a step farther, bashing a homer in the seventh that was the only run in a 1-0 victory.
Future plans: Smith has orally committed to play at the University of Buffalo. She has already visited the school and enjoyed the campus. She intends to study nursing.
Did you know? Smith enjoys listening to country music, like Luke Bryan. She’ll spend this summer playing travel ball for the Tampa Mustangs 18U gold team, with tournaments scheduled in Alabama, Colorado and Chicago.
Player of the Year: SS Jessica Warren, Sr., Alonso
Why we picked her: Warren was one of Tampa Bay’s top sluggers and had one of the strongest defensive arms in the county. Her .605 batting average ranked among the top 25 in the state, and she bashed a team-best 10 home runs with 33 RBIs to edge Berkeley Prep’s Kristin Hoover for the award. “It’s almost as if she could see it before it actually happened,” Ravens coach Robin Kopp said. “It’s not only that she hit well. It’s the way she could see the game that was great.”
Proudest accomplishment: Warren helped lead her team to a win in one of the craziest games of the year — a 7-6 win over Bloomingdale for the Class 8A, District 7 title in a 13-inning contest plagued by rain. “Our coach kept us up,” said Warren, who helped turn the game-ending double play for the victory. Alonso advanced to the Class 8A region semifinals.
Future plans: Warren has signed to play at Florida State. She plans to study sports psychology and is considering pursuing a career as a therapist.
Did you know? Warren got hooked on the sport by playing baseball with her older brother, James. She began playing T-ball as a young child and continued playing baseball with the boys until she was about 11 years old, when she switched to softball. “It was fun,” Warren said. “It was different.”
Coach of the year
Mandy Schuerman, Bloomingdale. The Bulls didn’t even make the playoffs last year but made history in Schuerman’s first season as head coach. Bloomingdale went from district runnerup to Class 8A state champion, giving the program its first state title since 1993 and finishing the season ranked No. 22 nationally by MaxPreps. The Bulls finished 27-3.
P Kayla Maxwell, Sr., Alonso: Houston signee helped the Ravens win the 8A-7 district title with a 1.36 ERA and 82 strikeouts.
P Nicole Lopez, Sr., Jefferson: Carried the Dragons to the program’s first fast-pitch district championship with 164 strikeouts and a .410 batting average.
P Sammi Grat, So., Gaither: Her 0.72 ERA and 9-1 record - included a shutout win over Steinbrenner for the Class 7A, District 8 championship.
P Noelle Dietrich, Jr., Plant City: 1.10 ERA helped the Raiders reach the 7A region semifinals.
C Mia Fung, Sr., Strawberry Crest: USF recruit finished with a .440 average and five home runs.
IF Emma Frost, Fr., Carrollwood Day: Led the Patriots to the Class 3A state semifinals with a .635 average and 30 extra-base hits.
IF Liz Diaz, Sr., Chamberlain: Vocal leader’s 38 RBIs and .428 average carried the Chiefs to the Class 6A state semifinals.
IF Elizabeth Jackson, Jr., Bloomingdale: Bulls’ top hitter (.486) for the 8A state champs.
IF Kristin Hoover, Sr., Berkeley Prep: Cal recruit ranked among the state’s leaders with a .612 average and 16 home runs.
OF Rachel Carlson, Sr., Freedom: Maine signee led the Patriots in hitting (.457) and steals (11).
OF Izzy Ordorica, Sr., Chamberlain: UCLA recruit was the top hitter (.442 average) for the state semifinalists.
OF Cacey Simmons, Sr., Strawberry Crest: Tops on the team with nine triples and 29 RBIs while batting .500.
DH Shannon Bell, Sr., Durant: Had the Cougars’ biggest hit — a walkoff home run in a Class 7A region quarterfinal win over Steinbrenner; finished with six homers and 45 RBIs.
UTIL Alea White, So., Cambridge Christian: Posted a 1.23 ERA with 245 strikeouts at pitcher and batted .629.
P Sammy Tyler, Sr., Strawberry Crest
P Sloan Hammons, Fr., Durant
P Olivia Dwyer, So., Chamberlain
P McKenzie Ward, Jr., Berkeley Prep
C Elizabeth Mason, So., Gaither
IF Hope Hernandez, Fr., Chamberlain
IF Erica Serafini, Jr., Steinbrenner
IF Brandea’ Rafferty, So., Robinson
IF Adri Jones, Jr., Leto
OF Megan Reed, Sr., Strawberry Crest
OF Justine Fernandez, So., Jefferson
OF Megan Wetzel, Jr., Alonso
DH Julia Schifino, Jr., Academy of the Holy Names
UTIL Megan Przeslawski, Sr., Plant
Academy of the Holy Names: Brittany Bramwell
Alonso: Elly Pillers
Berkeley Prep: Arielle Glass, Brie Nicker
Blake: Marissa Hernandez, Amanda Weathers
Bloomingdale: Darby Bernaldo, Taylor Engman, Samantha Selden
Brandon: Kristen Willig
Cambridge Christian: Megan Rygiel, Vivica Smith
Carrollwood Day: Savannah Bennett, Amanda Rose
Chamberlain: Jenna Brownell, Lauren Williams
Durant: Selena Bezares, Brooke Freeman, Morgan Slater, Kelli Tidwell
East Bay: Taylor Baker, Madison Culver, Amber Hess
Freedom: Maddy Hall, Grace Street
Gaither: Bethany Kursch, Alex Robbins
Hillsborough: Jamie Bevins
Jefferson: Kayla Fernandez, Natalia Rivera
Leto: Rebecca Harkins, Marcella Parrado
Middleton: Alexus Raymond, Gabriela Trejo
Newsome: Claire Feldman
Plant City: Kacie Booth, Emily Register, Rebecca Sorenson
Riverview: Kaitlyn McMillan, Peyton Moritz
Robinson: Amanda Crosby, Samantha Conlan, Caitelin Herrera, Haley Morrell
Seffner Christian: Madison Cates, Celia Higgins, Rachel Seifert,
Sickles: Giselle Anderson, Jasmine Carter
Steinbrenner: Kellee Ramsey
Strawberry Crest: Aly Masessa
Tampa Catholic: Kaylyn Carson, Cristina Clauberg, Emily Small
Tampa Prep: Kamryn Beach
Wharton: Makaleigh Dooley