Player of the Year: Bianka Bell, Sr., Chamberlain
Put a 34-inch Easton Synergy in Bell’s hands, and the term “softball” never seemed more contradictory.
The line-drive homers, the scorching grounders capable of ripping off a shortstop’s glove, the laser-type comebackers to the circle — try ascertaining what’s soft about any of that.
“I’ve coached a lot of good players,” 64-year-old Chamberlain coach Bobby Diez said. “I’ve never coached one as strong as she is.”
With a few keystrokes, posterity will always be able to summon the surreal numbers Bell posted (.720 average, 11 home runs, 35 RBIs, one strikeout in 104 plate appearances) while helping lead Chamberlain to the Class 7A state title.
What it won’t be able to illustrate, at least without accompanying video, is the sheer force that Bell, an LSU signee, employed in attaining those figures.
No stat will be able to quantify the velocity of the liner up the middle against Jefferson, the one that “almost took the pitcher’s head off,” teammate Ellen Scott recalled. Nor will numbers measure the Mach speed of the blast she sent down the line at Okeechobee, which Bell herself momentarily feared would level the third baseman.
“She’s able to consistently hit line drives over the fence,” Scott said. “I’ve never seen anyone hit a line drive over the fence. It’s pretty awesome.”
Diez’s assessment, like Bell’s swing, is even more compact — and forceful.
“The ball comes off her bat, it’s a ton.”
Pitcher of the Year: Paige Davis, Jr., Durant
Perhaps no greater microcosm of Davis and Durant’s mesmerizing season exists than a warm night in South Tampa.
After four innings of the Class 8A, District 7 final, the Cougars trailed Alonso 11-0. Davis, in her first season as Durant’s full-time ace, actually was locating her pitches well. Problem was, the Ravens were locating them, too.
“(Coach Matt Carter) just told me to keep hitting my spots, and that we just needed to hit the ball,” Davis recalled. “He wasn’t going to pull me, he didn’t say anything about pulling me; he just said they were just hitting the ball.”
That night, Davis and Co. did the only thing they knew how, the one thing for which they’d become immortalized: They hit back.
The Cougars exploded for 15 runs in the ensuing two innings, and Davis kept her poise. Next thing she knew, Davis and her peers were donning sunglasses and gyrating to rap music in the homeward-bound team vans in observation of a 15-13 triumph.
Three times over the next five playoff games, Durant again would spot its foe an early lead. All three times, the girl they call “Peanut” (22-4, 2.44 ERA, 23 complete games) never blinked. Leaning far more on command (“I’m a spot hitter,” she says) than velocity, Davis’ circle remained a sea of tranquility, even amid the stormiest of junctures.
The final front arrived in the top of the first inning of the state title game, when a two-run homer gave Miami Palmetto a 2-0 lead. “I was perfectly fine,” Davis said. “It’s two runs, not a big deal, we should be able to come back.”
Davis allowed three hits the rest of the game. The Cardiac Cougars prevailed 8-2.
Coach of the Year: Matt Carter, Durant
Many of Carter’s players insist the veteran Cougars coach never gets rattled, just a bit radical. Case in point: his defensive overhaul in the wake of a three-game skid in early April. All four starting infielders changed positions among themselves, and Durant (24-4) never lost again.
Amid this 10-game streak, Carter kept his team focused and galvanized as the mother of shortstop Olivia Cuellar waged a battle with cancer that would take her life May 4. Psychologist or strategist, Carter excelled in each role he assumed in 2012.
P Alexis Adams, Sr., Springstead: Streak of seven straight shutouts took Eagles to region finals
P Taylor Sabol, Sr., Palm Harbor University: Went 16-3 and had a 0.83 ERA for district champion team
P Madison Stanilou, Fr., Mitchell: Struck out 123 batters and allowed 12 earned runs in 79.2 innings
P Emily Winesett, Sr., Canterbury: Went 9-6 against schedule that included 12 playoff teams
C Hailee Keisling, Jr., Countryside: Batted .548 with 30 RBIs and hit safely in all but two games
IF Samantha McCloskey, Sr., Palm Harbor University: Pinellas County Player of the Year had 14 home runs, area-record 66 RBIs
IF Lauren Evans, So., Academy at the Lakes: USF commit batted in 44 runs with a .652 average
IF Jessica Warren, So., Alonso: Has county-best 15 homers in past two seasons
IF Logyn Lilley, Fr., Palm Harbor University: Hit .581 with 36 RBIs and 23 runs
OF Madi Gonzalez, Sr., Chamberlain: Four HRs in state tourney, including winner in final
OF Jordan LaFave, Sr., Durant: Cougars’ leadoff hitter went 3-for-8, two RBIs at state tourney
OF Katie McCarthy, Jr., Central: Bears’ star hit .564 while batting in 31 runs
DH Stephanie Frances, Jr., Sunlake: Among county leaders in homers (six) and average (.563)
Util Kristen Wyckoff, Jr., Plant City: USF commit has 80 stolen bases over past two years
P Erika Shick, Sr., Alonso
P Rachel Dwyer, Jr., Chamberlain
P Courtney Riddle, So., Hernando
P Mariah Watts, So., Lakewood
C Kassidy Kujawa, Jr., Wharton
IF Ellen Scott, Sr., Chamberlain
IF Rachel Taylor, So., Palm Harbor University
IF Taylor McCoy, Sr., Riverview
IF Amber Maxey, Sr., Gulf
OF Megan Copeland, Sr., Palm Harbor University
OF Makensie McAvoy, Sr., Plant City
OF Spencer Valdespino, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin
DH Lindsey Hagberg, Jr., Chamberlain
Util Kenzi Maguire, Fr., River Ridge
Academy at the Lakes: Sydney Boynton; Countryside: Kristin Hubbard, Kelsie Sanchez; Dunedin: Samantha Silver; East Lake: Sarah Schutz; Fivay: Jill McElderry; Leto: Jaclyn Amato; Nature Coast: Jeri Loffler; Osceola: Kara Oberer; Palm Harbor University: Jess Adams; Pasco: Jordan Lane, Sarah Burchfield; River Ridge: Makenzie Goluba, Morgan Tolle; Riverview: Emily Gaitan; Seminole: Jennie Sittloh; Sickles: Brittany Johnson; Springstead: Hailey Drawe, Brooke Fischbach; Strawberry Crest: Savannah Bradley; St. Petersburg: Bre Setree-Malone; Sunlake: Courtney Durbin; Zephyrhills: Marissa Gochenour