Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sports

hed

Their historic trek has occurred mostly under the radar. For 2 1/2 months, the Freedom Patriots quietly compiled an 18-3 regular-season mark before a resounding run — equal parts clutch and cacophonous — through the region playoffs. To be sure, we've learned much about the mettle of this team in the past three contests, but what about its makeup? Just who are these girls? As the Patriots (21-3) embark on their first state tournament trip, we offer a closer look at Hillsborough County's lone final four representative.

Two-headed ace

If coach Autum Hernandez adheres to her postseason formula, sophomore Grace Street will start in the circle tonight before ultimately being relieved by Wharton senior transfer Katlin Hall.

Street (9-0, 1.06 ERA, 66.1 IP), a straight-A advance placement student whom Hernandez describes as a "silent leader," has worked the first five, 2 2/3 and four innings of each playoff game, respectively.

Hall (9-3, 0.94 ERA, 67 IP), the more vocal of the two, has finished each.

Hernandez said the rotation initially arose when the first playoff game, against Countryside, was scheduled for a 4 o'clock start on a hot afternoon. Street and Hall combined to allow six hits in a 2-0 win.

"They both have good stuff for three to four innings," Hernandez said. "Not saying they don't have it for seven, but they have really good stuff when they're fresh, so that was our philosophy behind it."

Battery bound by blood

If and when Hall takes the circle tonight, she'll be throwing to her freshman sister, Maddy. The second and third of Harold and Dawn Hall's five kids, the girls acknowledge they bicker and badger each other incessantly.

"We're with each other literally 24/7 …so we fight about anything and everything," Katlin said with a chuckle.

"But we never take it out on the field," Maddy added.

Their coach attests. "They are super competitive with each other. You should see when Katlin's throwing live to Maddy; it gets kind of intense," Hernandez said.

"But they also know what buttons they can push with each other and when they've had enough. Maddy knows when it's time for her to go out there and calm (Katlin) down."

What a Saturday for Sunday

With the first over-the-fence home run of her life, Patriots senior Caroline Whiteside evolved from steady Patriots bunter to the toast of new Tampa.

The youngest of Paula and Charlie Whiteside's nine kids, Whiteside — whose full name is Sunday Caroline Whiteside — hit a two-out, two-strike grand slam in the top of the seventh inning to propel Freedom to a 5-1 win in Saturday's region final at Sarasota.

Before stepping onto the Patriots' charter bus for the trip home, she estimates she had received 15 congratulatory text messages. At Tampa Covenant Church the next morning, her pastor announced her feat to the congregation, prompting applause.

"It was mind-blowing," said Whiteside, who bats in the No. 2 spot primarily to bunt over leadoff hitter Maddy Hall. "It's been crazy and I'm really blessed."

Pulmonary Patriots?

A year after Durant (a.k.a. the Cardiac Cougars) rallied in four of its final six games to capture the Class 8A state title, Freedom has — to a degree — followed suit.

Whiteside's homer Saturday was only the latest in a handful of palpitating Patriot wins. In the 2-0 region quarterfinal win at Countryside, Freedom strung together five consecutive two-out singles in the seventh, with Maddy Hall's full-count hit the winning RBI.

In last month's 3-2 win against Leto, the Patriots scored two in the bottom of the seventh, highlighted by Maddy Hall's suicide squeeze. They scored four in the seventh in a 7-6 win against Chamberlain on March 1, with sophomore Kayla Maczuga driving in the tying run and junior Rachel Carlson bunting in the winner.

"I always talk to them about being the hero," Hernandez said. "Don't be shy to be a hero."

State softball

Where: Vero Beach Sports Village

Admission: $9 per session

Parking: $5 for cars, $25 for buses

Class 7A: Harmony (27-3) vs. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (20-5), 7 p.m.; Tallahassee Chiles (23-7) vs. Freedom (21-3), 7 p.m.

At stake: Winners meet in Thursday's 7:05 p.m. title game

On the Web: We offer a closer look at Hillsborough County's lone final four representative, Freedom, at tampabay.com/hometeam.

Comments
Girls basketball: Rebounding edge keeps Clearwater on top

Girls basketball: Rebounding edge keeps Clearwater on top

CLEARWATER — The result was expected but definitely didn't come easily.In Tuesday's Class 7A region semifinal, underdog Northeast threw some strong low-post defense against a lethargic Clearwater squad early, then rode effective offensive energ...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Nikita Kucherov’s trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

Nikita Kucherov’s trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

WASHINGTON — There was some lighthearted debate in the Lightning dressing room Tuesday night about whether the latest dazzling breakaway move by Nikita Kucherov was a deliberate fake or a slip off the stick.Some teammates playfully gave the All...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Rays trade team MVP Steven Souza Jr. in three-team deal that nets prospects

Rays trade team MVP Steven Souza Jr. in three-team deal that nets prospects

PORT CHARLOTTE — Evan Longoria traded in December. Jake Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson dumped over the weekend. Then, in a stunning move Tuesday night, 2017 team MVP Steven Souza Jr. shipped to Arizona as part of a three-team deal that netted onl...
Updated: 14 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for Feb. 20

Tuesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 17, St. Petersburg Cath. 0BaseballGulf Coast HEAT 9, Canterbury 4Calvary Chr. 6, Lakeland Chr. 1
Updated: 1 hour ago

Girls basketball: Tampa Bay Tech pulls away late

TAMPA — When Jalyn Spurlin played for Brandon High her first two seasons, she felt "like I had to be everything; everything was on me."Since transferring to Tampa Bay Tech, a team with seven seniors, including Division I-A-bound Janae...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Wednesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballGeorgia at South Carolina6:30 p.m.SECXavier at Georgetown6:30 p.m.FS1North Carolina at Syracuse7 p.m.ESPNGeorgia Tech at Virginia7 p.m.ESPN2Texas Tech at Oklahoma State7 p.m.ESPNUSMU at East Carolina7 p.m.ESPNewsClemson at Virg...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Girls basketball: Kaliah Henderson propels Robinson

TAMPA — As the post-game celebration subsided, Robinson junior Kaliah Henderson found a secluded spot on the emptied stands to relax, and perhaps reflect, after going non-stop for the Knights in Tuesday's Class 6A region semifinal.Told she had ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Baseball: Calvary Christian picks up where it left off

Baseball: Calvary Christian picks up where it left off

CLEARWATER — This year's version of the Calvary Christian baseball team looks an awful lot like last year's team. The Warriors, who went 30-0 in 2017 and won the Class 4A state championship, picked up where they left off Tuesday night with a 6-...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Who are Anthony Banda and Nick Solak

So, who did the Rays get back for RF Steven Souza Jr.?LHP Anthony Banda, 24, who appeared in eight games/four starts for the Diamondbacks last season, and 2B Nick Solak, 23, from the Yankees organization in addition to two players to be named later f...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Girls basketball: Tampa Catholic gets coveted rematch

TAMPA — Tanyia Gordon looked at the basket and shot the first free throw. The ball hit the back of the rim, bounced several feet high and came down perfectly through the net.Her second attempt? A carbon copy of the previous one."Never, never (h...
Updated: 2 hours ago