The Freedom Spirit senior women's softball team has been playing in national tournaments together since 1997. The team has won numerous gold medals in various tournaments across the country. And the club has been especially successful at the World Senior Games, where it won three straight gold medals between 2001 and 2005.
The team, which now competes in the 70-years-and-over category, added another gold medal to its collection this month at the World Senior Games in San Jose, Calif. After going 4-1 in pool play, the Freedom Spirit defeated the Golden Gals from the Villages in the semifinal and the Golden Girls from Virginia to win the championship.
The team is based at Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater but has players from all over the state. There are 19 players on the roster, but a good part of them are from Pinellas County. The local players are Del Bowyer (Largo), Chrysta Davidson (Dunedin), Beverly Eggert (Largo), Elaine Fisler (Clearwater), Maureen Gallina (St. Petersburg), Ethel Lehmann (Largo), Shirley Smith (St. Petersburg) and Jean Toberman (St. Petersburg). The coach, Jan Ellis, is from St. Petersburg.
"We're not little grannies out there," Smith said. "We've got some ladies that can really play."
Most of the players have played together for several years.
Lehmann, 78, is an especially talented player. When she isn't playing for the Freedom Spirit, she plays for the Kids-N-Kubs 75-over team at Northshore Park in St. Petersburg. She is the only woman in that group. And last year Lehmann was inducted into the Softball Players Association Hall of Fame in Tennessee.
The next tournament for the team will be in mid September in Nashville.
The Tampa Mustangs girls 18-under fastpitch softball team recently won the 2009 ASA national championship in Las Vegas.
The team is made up of players from around the Tampa Bay area, including three from Pinellas County. Maddie O'Brien of Palm Harbor played shortstop and hit .433 with five doubles and 12 RBIs for the tournament. O'Brien is a senior at Palm Harbor University High School and has orally committed to play softball at Florida State. Kirsten Bembnowski attends East Lake High and played leftfield in the tournament. Bembnowski, who will play next year at Florida Gulf Coast College, hit .385 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Kaitlyn Santo of Palm Harbor is on the team but missed the tournament because of an injury.
Holes-in-one: Brian Kenyon of Pinellas Park aced the par-3, 116-yard third hole at the Tides Golf Course in Seminole with an 8-iron. Randy Henderson of Madeira Beach aced the 121-yard fifth hole at the Tides with a pitching wedge. Michael Hanson of St. Petersburg aced the 100-yard 12th hole at Largo Golf Course on Aug. 11 with a sand wedge. Kyle Mills of Palm Harbor aced the sixth hole at Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Course on July 30 using an 8-iron.
Alexis Franco of Largo recently competed in the Oceanside Junior Super Series tournament in Ormand Beach. Franco won the girls 12 singles championship by defeating top seed Alyssa Pujals 6-3, 6-2. She teamed with Lauren Fitz-Randolph to win the doubles title.
• The East Lake Summer Local Jr. Championships were held Aug. 8-10 at East Lake Woodlands. In the boys 18 singles, Adam Gottlieb won the championship. Nestor Perez was 16 singles winner, Ganesh Rajaram won the 14 championship, Aaron Carey was the 12 winner, and Chase Rutan was the 10 champion. In the girls 18 singles, Jessica Albuquerque won the title, Alba Sala was the 16 winner, Caroline Arrigoni was the 14 winner, Anastasha Worlds was the 12 winner, and Melanie Dlugolecki was the 10 winner.
• The Royal Racquet Summer Classic was held Aug. 14-17 in Clearwater. The men's open singles winner was Eddie Neese. The women's open singles champ was Sarah Means. The men's 45 singles winner was Selim Benbadis, the men's 55 winner was Robert Graham and the 65 winner was Reinaldo Valor. The women's 35 winner was Joan Simmons.
Johntavia Shaw of Clearwater competed in the shot put at the AAU Jr. National Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. Another event was listed in last week's Neighborhood Times.