Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sports

Durant softball aims to defend state championship

Talent hasn't — and also in a strange way has — been a problem in the early stages of the Durant softball team's state title defense.

The Cougars are loaded with many of the same characters from last spring's Class 8A titlists. So much so that head coach Matt Carter has had trouble determining the batting order, who takes the field and who sits on the bench.

If you think it sounds like nothing to worry about, think again.

"It's tough," Carter said. "There are good players on the bench and you're hoping they don't get disheartened, or disgruntled," he said. "We probably won't have it all sorted out by spring break."

Several stars from last year's squad have their names virtually in permanent ink. Pitcher Paige Davis returns, as do Brooke Freeman, Shannon Bell, Alyssa Colding and Payton Lewis. All were hitting around or well over the .500 mark through the first four games.

Transfer T.J. Farrell has been added to the mix at shortstop.

Durant is 3-2 after being unable to hold a 5-0 lead in its District 8A-7 opener Tuesday at Plant. The Panthers scored four runs in the sixth to win 7-5. Bell hit a two-run homer for the Cougars, who visit Bloomingdale tonight.

Carter's team doesn't feel any special pressure to repeat as champions. Just getting through the very difficult 8A-7 is mission enough.

"They all know they have a huge target on their back," he said. "It all comes down to the end of the year and getting through your district. You can go undefeated and then lose that first district game."

Carter wasn't referring to Strawberry Crest, but he could have been. The Chargers have a tremendous lineup themselves, are off to a quick start and hope to get into the championship mix.

"We do talk about it," said Chargers head coach Mindy Miltner, as to expectations of possibly pulling off what Durant did last year. "But we're not gonna get ahead of ourselves."

She won't have to go any further than last year's finish to serve as a guide. Strawberry Crest was coming off a first playoff appearance in 2011, went through the 6A-District 11 schedule with a 9-1 mark and added a victory over Chamberlain, which went on to win the Class 7A state title.

All that was needed to get back into the postseason was a win against a Leto team the Chargers had already defeated twice, once by a 17-0 score.

And they lost 1-0.

This year, Chamberlain beat Strawberry Crest last week in a dramatic 9-8, eight-inning loss that saw the Chargers score three in the seventh to force extras.

"The fight we showed there, that was awesome," Miltner said. "We don't get shaken up."

The entire Charger lineup is a threat. Cacey Simmons proved that against Chamberlain: the No. 9 hitter hit a grand slam that put the Chargers ahead 5-1.

Freshman Kasey Locke has been added to the dangerous mix of standouts led by Megan Reed, Mia Fung and Savannah Bradley. Maddie Turner, Jordan Bowers and Trystan Reibsome are very good, and throw in sophomore Aly Masessa — it's a nightmare for the opposition.

Turner and Fung both homered in Tuesday's 12-0 win over Armwood. Freshman Scottie Todd struck out seven in three hitless innings. Outside of the Chamberlain loss Durant has won its other four games by a combined 57-0.

"They've got it all, offense, defense, pitching," raved Chamberlain head coach Bobby Diez.

And Miltner loves how vocal her group has become overall with leadership coming from all corners.

Durant and Strawberry Crest meet for the first time in a regular season matchup March 6 at Durant. The only time the schools faced off in softball was a spring tournament during the Chargers' inaugural year, a game won 5-4 by Strawberry Crest.

• • •

Plant City is under new head coach Amanda Sawyer and although the Raiders started off 0-3, the schedule had a lot to do with that. They gave Newsome a close game in the opener (5-4) before falling to Plant and Strawberry Crest.

The Raiders earned their first victory last week, 9-0 against Armwood. And on Tuesday they blasted Hillsborough in their District 7A-8 opener by a 21-0 score.

Comments
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

This is how odd LHP Blake Snell's night was — he became the first pitcher to work seven or more innings and walk at least seven since Edwin Jackson threw his 149-pitch, eight-walk no-hitter at the Rays on June 25, 2010.If you weren't aware of t...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Wednesday, June 20

TODAYBaseballDodgers at Cubs2 p.m.MLBMarlins at Giants3:30 p.m.FSFMariners at Yankees7 p.m.MLBRays at Astros8 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCollege baseball, World SeriesOregon State vs. North Carolina7 p.m.ESPNGolfPGA Professionals Championship6:30 p.m.GolfHor...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Updated: 7 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 6:45: Cash said Smith will continue to play a lot, getting time in LF and RF, meaning something of a rotation system for rookie Johnny Field and veteran Carlos Gomez.UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, w...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Largo High defensive back Solomon Brown had plenty of college options with offers from 20 Division I-A schools. Still, the three-star recruit did not need to go through a prolonged process to figure out where he wanted to go.Two weeks ago, Brown comm...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Skyway 10K returning in March 2019, renewed for 5 more years

Skyway 10K returning in March 2019, renewed for 5 more years

ST. PETERSBURG — After raising $560,000 for its inaugural run on March 4, St Petersburg’s Skyway 10K will be returning in 2019 and will have the support of governmental agencies for years to come, run organizers said Tuesday.The run, which had around...
Published: 06/19/18
So, how exactly did the Rays end up losing Monday?

So, how exactly did the Rays end up losing Monday?

The Rays lost Monday's game when Sergio Romo failed them in the ninth inning.Called on to protect what was whittled to a one-run lead from 4-0, Romo got off to a bad start, walking the first batter on four pitches and then allowing a single to the se...
Published: 06/19/18