Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Sports

Softball players get college offers as early as middle school

Four years ago, Canterbury School of Florida's Danielle Romanello committed to play softball at the University of Florida, the school she had always dreamed of attending.

Her college plans raised some eyebrows, not for which high-powered program she picked, but how early she did it.

Romanello was in eighth grade.

At the time, she was one of the youngest softball players to commit to a college. Because of that, her father, Dan Romanello, was hesitant to publicly announce the decision.

"We wanted to do our best to protect Danielle because we knew there would be a lot of negative comments from people for her making that type of decision at such a young age and us letting her," he said. "It was not that common back then. The climate in the sport was completely different."

Now, it has become the norm for big-time softball players to commit to a college, particularly those in major conferences, by the time they are high school freshmen.

• Palm Harbor University High freshman Mia Buffano committed to the Gators when she was in eighth grade.

• A pair of freshman pitchers, Academy at the Lakes' Alexis Kilfoyl and Land O'Lakes' Callie Turner, have already committed to Alabama and Tennessee, respectively.

• Tampa Catholic freshman Alexa Russo had her first college offer from Central Florida as an eighth-grader. She picked up another offer this season from USF.

"I was extremely excited, thrilled and mostly humbled," Russo said. "I finally felt like all my hard work and dedication to the sport was starting to pay off. Both offers motivated me to work a lot harder than ever before."

Romanello is part of Canterbury's star-studded class of 2017 that includes Taylor Bump, who committed to Michigan as a freshman. And former teammate Kama Woodall, now at Springstead, picked North Carolina State following her freshman season.

"I started getting letters from colleges at school for those three girls during their freshman season," Crusaders coach Jody Moore said. "That really surprised me at the time because most girls do not start fully developing until their sophomore season of high school."

Not everyone is happy with the trend.

This past fall, women's lacrosse and softball coaches both proposed NCAA rules that would limit recruiting of younger students.

Current NCAA rules forbid coaches in nearly every sport from directly contacting students before their junior year of high school. But coaches have found a loophole and are reaching student-athletes indirectly through a high school or travel ball coach.

The topic of recruiting also was highlighted at the Florida Athletic Coaches Association softball meeting this year. Among those in attendance for a panel discussion was USF coach Ken Eriksen and Florida coach Tim Walton.

"That was something we talked a lot about at the meeting, how young it was happening," Moore said. "The college coaches all said they don't like it either, but they felt they had to do it or else they miss out on a player."

The push toward younger recruits also forces college coaches to commit to players before they know whether they will fully develop into the player they project them to be once they are high school seniors.

Romanello turned out to be the high-caliber player the Gators wanted. Last season, she was the Class 2A state high school player of the year.

"The coaches at Florida have been great throughout the whole process," Dan Romanello said. "They took their time with us and helped us be at ease with the decision we were making. Now, there is such an emphasis on getting younger players.

"It's a different landscape now."

Comments
Rays journal: Offense finally shows up in 6-1 win over Yankees

Rays journal: Offense finally shows up in 6-1 win over Yankees

NEW YORK —  The Rays were looking for something to spark their once-again stagnant offense, and it came in somewhat unexpected ways in a 6-1 win over the Yankees on Wednesday.Rookie INF/OF Brandon Lowe, who didn't have a hit in his first 1...
Updated: 1 hour ago
As the Rays turn: Tommy Pham activated, Jake Faria demoted

As the Rays turn: Tommy Pham activated, Jake Faria demoted

OF Tommy Pham only needed seven innings in leftfield and four at-bats for short-season Class A Hudson Valley on Wednesday to determine his fractured right foot was healed and he will rejoin the Rays for Thursday's matinee at Yankee Stadium.Pham was i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays core that finishes season will be one that starts 2019, Stuart Sternberg says

Rays core that finishes season will be one that starts 2019, Stuart Sternberg says

NEW YORK — No, the Rays won't sit tight the whole off­season without changing their roster. That's not their style. There's going to be a trade or two. They'll dump somebody whose salary exceeds his value. With only maybe $30 million or so...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from the Rays’ win over the Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from the Rays’ win over the Yankees

1. Welcome back, Kevin Kiermaier. For one night, anyway, the slumping centerfielder looked like the kind of game-changer the Rays expect, rapping a few hits, racing around the bases and roaming the outfield, making leaping catches and laser-like thro...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sports on TV/radio for Thursday, August 16

TODAYAutosTrucks: UNOH 200 qualifying4 p.m.FS1Trucks: UNOH 2008:30 p.m.FoxBaseballRays at Yankees1 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCubs at Pirates7 p.m.MLBDiamondbacks at Padres10 p.m.MLBBaseball, Little League World SeriesCaribbean vs. Asia-Pacific1 p.m.ESPNStat...
Updated: 2 hours ago
College football can learn from Jordan McNair. Will it?

College football can learn from Jordan McNair. Will it?

Today, every college football program in the country should be having a discussion that starts with these two words:Jordan McNair.Jordan should be getting ready for the upcoming season with his University of Maryland teammates. He should be getting r...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota meet again. Sort of.

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota meet again. Sort of.

NASHVILLE — Here at the intersection of Marcus Mariota Place and Jameis Winston Way, the quarterbacks of the Titans and Bucs continued to go in different directions.During the teams' joint workout Wednesday, the quarterbacks never got closer th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Keswick coach Phil Hayford back on the field after spring’s gruesome leg injury

Keswick coach Phil Hayford back on the field after spring’s gruesome leg injury

It's going to take more than a nasty leg injury to keep Keswick Christian coach Phil Hayford off the football field. Hayford, 70, was injured in April when he got too close to a player during a drill. The cleat from one of his players peeled off the ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Jake Faria on the mound

For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Jake Faria on the mound

UPDATE, 6:25: The lat strain sustained by RHP Wilmer Font in June has proved to be serious, Cash saying today: "In all likelihood it will be really challenging to see him at any point the rest of this year."UPDATE, 6:07: Cash said they are expecting ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs receivers come out ‘smoking’ hot against Titans

Bucs receivers come out ‘smoking’ hot against Titans

NASHVILLE — DeSean Jackson turned Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler around and hauled in a deep pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick during one-on-one drills. Mike Evans leaped over Logan Ryan, plucking the ball with two hands off the top of t...
Updated: 7 hours ago