District tournament week, which begins Monday, ushers in the real softball season, according to local coaches, a time where a teamwide hot streak or one lousy performance can mean all the difference between advancing and packing it in for another year. For many seniors, however, the week is bittersweet, knowing that the next game could be their last in a high school uniform. This year's senior class has produced some of the most talented players to take the field in Pinellas County in quite some time. A look at some of the most recognizable seniors who will be trying to squeeze a bit more life out of their high school careers:
Kirsten Bembnowski, East Lake
The lone senior in East Lake's starting lineup, Bembnowski is hoping to lead the Eagles to the state final four for only the second time in school history. The Florida Gulf Coast signee is tied for the county lead with five home runs, and her range in the outfield allows her to make highlight-reel catches with regularity.
Chloe Saganowich, St. Petersburg Catholic
Saganowich will play shortstop at Notre Dame, but she'll be remembered most for her steely eyed demeanor as the Barons ace pitcher and her ability to swing for the fences. SPC has come oh-so-close to making the state final four in recent years. Could Saganowich's final season be the time for the Barons to break through?
More Barons seniors: Alex Troyer is one of the Barons' top hitters. Janine Steinhauser provides skill and experience in the outfield.
Sarah Read, Seminole
The Warhawks will lose a lot next year to graduation. No loss, however, will be felt more than Read's. It's hard to find a weakness in her game. As a pitcher she sports a sub-1.00 ERA with more than 100 strikeouts. At the plate, she leads the Warhawks in home runs, RBIs and runs, and she is second in batting. Read is signed to play at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, one of the nation's top junior college programs.
More Warhawks seniors: Emily Crawford leads the team in hitting from the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Centerfielder Amanda Nette is one of the county's best all-around players. Always a solid fielder, Jen LaBau is now swinging a hot bat after a slow start.
Madison O'Brien, Palm Harbor University
A Florida State signee, O'Brien is the definition of a complete player. The Hurricanes' leading batter can hit for average and for power. With runners in scoring position, she's even more dangerous. Defensively, O'Brien possesses the county's strongest arm from her shortstop position. Chances are if the ball is hit on the left side, O'Brien is going to field it. Flawlessly.
More Hurricanes seniors: Jackie Katchuk at catcher is like having another Hurricanes coach on the field. Emily Hazzard provides a big bat in the No. 5 spot in the order. Laura Herndon, a Purdue signee, is a steady fielder with speed to burn.
Sara Nevins, Pinellas Park
With 10 strikeouts — she struck out two batters per inning on average — Nevins helped the Patriots capture their first PCAC title. Now, the senior left-hander would like nothing more than to pitch Pinellas Park deep into the postseason. The Patriots have yet to win a region-round game in school history. Nevins, who has enjoyed one of the most storied high school careers in county history, will play for USF next season.
More Patriots seniors: Tracy Coward missed most of the year but her insertion in the lineup could be a key component to a playoff run. Jenna Rimensnyder can get on base and score runs.
Other seniors to watch
Stephanie Bonalewicz, Northside Christian: Diminutive in stature, Bonalewicz is one of the county's toughest outs.
Tina Campbell, Lakewood: Lakewood's everyday pitcher (1.68 ERA) is also its leading hitter (.372).
Emily Carlson, Indian Rocks Christian: Has been near the lead in the county for batting all season.
Devika Choo Chew, Countryside: Combines with junior Ayanna Andrews to form the speediest top of the order in the county.
Jessica Johnson, St. Petersburg: The Green Devils are a dangerous playoff team and Johnson, the team's leading batter and pitcher, is a big reason why.
Carly Van Auken, Osceola: Standout defender with speed is also exceptional at the plate.
6A-7 (highest seed hosts)
Tuesday: St. Petersburg (5) at Countryside (4), 4; North Port (6) at Sarasota Riverview (3), 7
Wednesday: St. Petersburg/Countryside winner at Palm Harbor University (1), 4; North Port/Riverview winner at Sarasota (2), 7
Friday: Final, TBA
5A-12 at Pinellas Park
Tuesday: Gibbs (5) vs. Largo (4), 7
Wednesday: Northeast (3) vs. Boca Ciega (2), 4; Gibbs/Largo winner vs. Pinellas Park (1), 7
Friday: Final, 7
5A-11 at Tarpon Springs
Monday: Clearwater (5) vs. Dunedin (4), 7
Tuesday: Dunedin/Clearwater winner vs. East Lake (1), 4; Tarpon Springs (3) vs. Seminole (2), 7
Thursday: Final, 7
4A-10 at Osceola (highest seed hosts)
Tuesday: Palmetto (5) at Lakewood (4), 7; Bayshore (6) at Osceola (3), 7; Dixie Hollins (7) at Braden River (2), 7
Wednesday: Palmetto/Lakewood winner at Lakewood Ranch (1), 7; Bayshore/Osceola winner vs. Dixie Hollins/Braden River winner, 7
Friday: Final, 7 (Pinellas County team hosts, unless both finalists are from Manatee County)
3A-10 at Berkeley Prep
Monday: Academy of the Holy Names (3) vs. Tampa Catholic (2), 5; Clearwater Central Catholic (5) vs. Berkeley Prep (4), 7:30
Tuesday: Clearwater Central Catholic/Berkeley Prep winner vs. St. Petersburg Catholic (1), 6
Wednesday: Final, 6
2A-11 at Northside Christian
Tuesday: St. Stephen's (3) vs. Shorecrest (2), 2; Out-of-Door (4) vs. Northside Christian (1), 4
Thursday: Final, 4
2A-10 at Bishop McLaughlin
Monday: Calvary Christian (4) vs. Bishop McLaughlin (1), 4:30
Tuesday: Tampa Prep (3) vs. Indian Rocks Christian (2), 4:30
Thursday: Final, 4:30
A-9 at Canterbury
Monday: Cambridge (5) vs. Carrollwood Day (4), 5
Tuesday: Lakeside Christian (3) vs. Academy at the Lakes (2), 5; Carrollwood Day/Cambridge winner vs. Canterbury (1), 7
Thursday: Final, 6