MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Player of the Year
Madison O’Brien, Sr., Palm Harbor University
Gifted in every facet of the game, the senior shortstop put together a season to remember for the Hurricanes. O’Brien, a four-year starter, guided PHU to the PCAC title game and its second straight district title. O’Brien possess a dangerous bat, has unlimited range in the field and is a natural team leader.
The smooth-swinging O’Brien collected 52 hits on the season and batted .658 with 12 doubles and four triples. She led all area players by smashing seven home runs and driving in 53 runs.
Most memorable moment: O’Brien’s bat was lethal in the postseason. In a tight district semifinal with Countryside, O’Brien homered and singled home a run in a 4-1 win. O’Brien kept the Hurricanes alive in the district final against Sarasota with a two-out double in the seventh inning, then singled home the winning run in the ninth. Four days later, O’Brien hit a grand slam and had eight RBIs total in the region quarterfinals.
O’Brien signed in November to play for Florida State, where she plans to study business and marketing.
Pitcher of the Year
Kayla Cox, Sr., East Bay
While taking East Bay to its first state title, Kayla Cox took her rightful place in the pantheon of bay area pitching greats. Before the 2010 season, that elite sorority included the likes of Palm Harbor University’s Dani Hofer, Countryside’s Bree Spence and Riverview’s Beth DiPietro. Now, Cox warrants strong consideration to have her high cheekbones and hardened brown eyes immortalized in this local Mount Rushmore of riseball extraordinaires.
In an Indians season that was unprecedented, Cox was mostly untouchable. Despite the annoyance of tendinitis and the anguish of her mom’s life-threatening liver disease, the North Carolina State signee still posted an 18-1 record and 0.19 ERA. In 148 innings, she struck out 242. Thirty strikeouts occurred in the state tournament, which ended with Cox fanning Niceville’s No. 2 batter with the bases loaded. Of her seven complete-game one-hitters, two occurred in the playoffs.
She almost certainly would’ve had more had her arm problems not sidelined her a handful of games. And bear in mind, Cox achieved her staggering totals while pitching from a distance of 43 feet. Her ultra-successful predecessors pitched from only 40. Subtract the arm pain, and the distance from circle to plate, and Cox is flirting with 400 K’s. Carve it in stone.
P Sara Nevins, Sr., Pinellas Park: 331 strikeouts give Nevins, a USF signee, 1,160 for her prep career
P Alyssa Bache, Jr., East Lake: Florida commit with 0.57 ERA shut out Pinellas Park and Sickles back-to-back to lead Eagles to region title
P Cortney Radke, Sr., Mitchell: Finished 18-3 with 252 strikeouts, 17 complete games and 12 shutouts
P Kayla Goff, Jr., Brandon: Tossed three no-hitters and a one-hit win against Mitchell
C Taylor Storey, Jr., Plant City: Hit .456 with seven homers, 12 doubles, 37 RBIs
IF Heather Muccino, Jr., Mitchell: Hit .566 with 47 hits, 32 runs, 20 RBIs, 14 doubles, six triples, two home runs
IF Kristen McGrath, Sr., Gaither: .578, seven homers, 30 RBIs; 6-3 (with two-hit playoff shutout)
IF Sydney Dinelli, Jr., East Lake: Team-high 25 RBIs helped Eagles reach state semifinals
IF Stephanie Medina, Sr., Chamberlain: USF signee hit .541 and struck out twice all year
OF Ayanna Andrews, Jr., Countryside: LSU commit batted .635 and stole a school-record 45 bases
OF Ashli Goff, Sr., Sickles: .642 hitter didn’t strike out in 111 plate appearances
OF Kirsten Bembnowski, Sr., East Lake: Florida Gulf Coast signee hit five home runs, seven triples, batted .400 and drove in 20 runs
DH Jessica Anderson, Fr., Northside Chr.: Scored 58 runs, collected 51 RBIs, bashed five home runs, doubled 12 times and tripled six times
Util Megan McGrath, Sr., Gaither: .506, 36 RBIs; 8-4, 1.24 ERA in the circle
P Chelsea Oglevie, Sr., Sickles
P Mackenzie Audas, Jr., Plant City
P Lakyn Shull, Jr., River Ridge
P Sarah Read, Sr., Seminole
C Jackie Katchuk, Sr., Palm Harbor University
IF Bianka Bell, So., Chamberlain
IF Emily Crawford, Sr., Seminole
IF Danielle Rowe, Sr., Sickles
IF Hayley Davis, Jr., East Lake
OF Madison Morris, Sr., River Ridge
OF Courtney Goff, Sr., Sickles
OF Erika Arcuri, Sr., Plant
DH Elizabeth Nugent, Sr., East Bay
Util Chloe Saganowich, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic
Coach of the Year
Glen Rodriguez, East Bay
Less than a year after having a defibrillator implanted following a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, Rodriguez helped the Indians rebound from a 1-4-1 start (Cox pitched in none of the defeats) to win the first state title in the school’s 53-year history.
Boca Ciega: Mallory Allen; Central: McKenzie Burns; Countryside: Devika Choo Chew; East Bay: C.C. Rock; Gaither: Morgan Litchfield; Hernando Christian: Briana Hogan, Courtney Riddle; Mitchell: Sara Brock; Nature Coast: Lizzy Olmstead; Palm Harbor University: Taylor Sabol; Pasco: Lizzy Burchfield, Courtney Brandt; Pinellas Park: Sammy Martin; Plant: Sarah Bowling; Steinbrenner: Jaclyn Amato; Sunlake: Courtney Durbin, Stephanie Frances; Zephyrhills: Lauren Pasquale