NEW PORT RICHEY — Mitchell opens the Class 6A region playoffs Wednesday against a Chamberlain squad it knows little about. Fortunately, the Mustangs are secure in one bit of knowledge:
Their hitting is right where it needs to be.
"Absolutely, without a doubt," said senior Kassidy Neptune, the leader of the batting charge. "If our pitching or defense happens to be off, our hitting can overcome it."
As a team, Mitchell (24-3) is batting .374, with Neptune carrying a .571 average to go with five homers and 32 RBIs. Second baseman "Swoo" Delegro is a tidy .492 with 30 runs, second only to Neptune.
Both pitchers, senior Jordan Fowler and junior Madison Staniloiu, double as plus-.400 batters, and shortstop Paige Davis is right on that number.
"We started off really strong, then hit a plateau but we've got it going again. Good time for it," Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe said.
That has created a sense of confidence that is much needed come playoff time. When it comes to the Mustangs' potential region path, uncertainty reigns.
Bisbe "can't figure out" a region bracket that could see the Mustangs face two Tampa sides before a region final against a Naples-area team. Chamberlain is on a roll, but lost twice to Jefferson — which was steam rolled by Osceola, a team Mitchell easily defeated three times.
It even makes Neptune wish the Mustangs were grouped with the strong Pasco teams they're familiar with.
"I miss our district. The last four years I've been used to playing River Ridge, Pasco, Anclote — the usuals. This year it was a little odd," Neptune said.
She adds that the undefeated stroll through 6A-10 (combined margin, 101-17) might not have been the best preparation for postseason play.
Neptune blasted two of her five home runs in the district final, and today will be celebrating her signing with State College of Florida in Bradenton. Right now she's the most fierce outfielder going in Pasco County, combining power and speed at the plate and an leftfield arm that no one dares run on.
Ask Gulf's Madison Morlan, who tried to score the tying run on Neptune in one of Mitchell's best wins of the season, 2-1 on March 27.
"Incredible, the play of the game, catches it flat-footed and makes the throw. Not many try and run on her," Bisbe said.
Neptune credits her overall conditioning to taking up weightlifting as a sophomore.
"People look at me and think, she can't be fast; this will be an easy out," Neptune said. "At first I did weightlifting just for the conditioning, but now I really love the sport. I would recommend it to anyone."
Third baseman Samantha Renzetti is giving Neptune a run for top defensive honors. Against Osceola she caught a bunt attempt in foul territory — on the foul side of first base.
Fowler, whom Bisbe said will likely get the mound start against Chamberlain, will be part of today's festivities as she's headed to Lake Sumter to play collegiately.
Then Wednesday the Mustangs hope for another celebration, and perhaps a few more after that with the goal of a first trip to the state tournament. All the focus is on Chamberlain though — even if they're not sure exactly who to focus on.
"We've heard about how Chamberlain has been really good in years past," said Delegro. "But I feel collectively we'll be ready for anything."