Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Sibling connection strong with University of Tampa softball

TAMPA — At first, Maddie Farrell was determined to make her own softball identity. Her older sister, Taylor, already was playing at the University of Tampa. So that sent her in another direction. She committed to Florida Atlantic, one of her Division I school options.

And that looked like a fine decision for Farrell, a catcher last season at Durant High School.

But it didn't feel right.

"We had always played together on travel teams," Farrell said. "Some people might be like, 'What's it like to play with your sister all the time?' For me, it's just normal.

"So when it came down to it, I knew I needed to come to UT. It has been kind of nice. I came to college like a little lost puppy and she was able to show me everything. I think of her like another player on the field, but it's definitely nice having her around. There's nothing like family."

Spartans coach Leslie Kanter likes to describe her program as a family.

And if you examine the roster, that seems accurate.

Maddie and Taylor Farrell are the latest example of a UT sister combination.

Senior outfielder Kelsey Humphrey, from St. Petersburg Catholic, followed in the footsteps of her sister, Kristi, who was a Spartans catcher and four-year letter winner (2008-11).

Junior outfielder Alex Walton, from St. Johns in the Jacksonville area, followed her sister, Brie, who was a Spartans outfielder and four-year letter winner (2010-13).

For Humphrey and Walton, who attended UT games and emulated their older sisters, their college choice was never a question.

"I was one of those little kids getting dragged to games," Humphrey said. "I definitely grew up in the bleachers. I would watch my sister and definitely picture myself playing here. So that thought was put in my mind pretty early. That's how I envisioned it."

"When I first got here, it was like a joke with the people around the program, 'Oh, I see you followed your sister's lead,' " Walton said. "But I knew if I wanted to play college softball, it was 100 percent here or nowhere. I knew everyone on the team. I knew how Coach Kanter treated everyone and wanted to be part of that."

Walton was a catcher in her younger days, but soon found herself converted to outfield.

Just like her sister.

"I guess you could say I'm completely following my sister's path," Walton said. "Sometimes, Coach Kanter will joke with me, 'I wish you had Brie's speed.' And I'll laugh.

"That kind of thing might drive some people crazy. I have never disliked being compared to my sister because she's such an amazing person. I'm the youngest of four and (Brie) is like my second mom. You can compare me to her all you want. I do want to be like her."

On and off the field.

When Walton needs drive and motivation to become a better player, she looks to her sister.

"It always fueled my competitiveness in a good way," Walton said. "Anything she did, I always tried to do better. But I've always looked up to her."

Humphrey said she feels the same way about her sister, who just finished a master's program in nursing and now works at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

"She has always helped me and been a great role model," Humphrey said. "She would have her own accomplishments, but she'd love to hear the stories I came home with.

"That's the kind of attitude that makes a difference in a team, everybody caring about everybody and lifting each other up. We have some sisterly bonds here on this team, even though we're not actual sisters. That kind of chemistry translates to the field. As a senior, I couldn't ask for any more. We are a together group."

Humphrey and Walton love it when their sisters stay in touch. They attend as many UT games as they can, although it's more problematic for Walton's sister, who is married and lives in Georgia.

But whether in person or through the Internet, they are constantly staying in touch, keeping up with their younger sisters' softball exploits.

For the younger Farrell, her sister is a daily presence, whether it's on the softball field or around the UT campus. She wouldn't have it any other way.

"The love is always there," the younger Farrell said. "Sometimes, it's tough love. I know she cares about what's best for me and that's a big security for me."

In softball — and in life — there's nothing like family.

 
Comments
USA! USA! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

USA! USA! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey is finally over. They needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it, too.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored a dazzling, triple-deke goal in the sixth ...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Girls basketball region finals preview

Girls basketball region finals preview

All games at 7 p.m. FridayClass 8ANaples Gulf Coast (25-2) at Tampa Bay Tech (25-3): The Titans are coming off a 62-44 win over Countryside. They are clearly playing some good basketball at the right time. Junior Jalyn Spurlin scored 12 poi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
What if the Rays actually have a good plan?

What if the Rays actually have a good plan?

PORT CHARLOTTE — Going against popular opinion, here's an odd thought to ponder:What if the Rays actually know what they're doing?The deal agreed to Wednesday afternoon with veteran outfielder Carlos Gomez — one year for a hefty-for-them ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
New D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants to make Bucs pass rush great again

New D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants to make Bucs pass rush great again

This isn't the first time Brentson Buckner has wanted to get closer to the Bucs defensive line.As a defensive tackle for the Panthers, Buckner's team went 7-9 in 2002, the inaugural season for the NFC South.Tampa Bay won the division that year, and w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Hey Rays, this is no way to build a ballpark

Hey Rays, this is no way to build a ballpark

PORT CHARLOTTE — It was another morning after at Charlotte Sports Park and Rays Bargain Clearance Barn.  This time it's Steven Souza Jr., man of a thousand faces. He gone.What else is new at the incredible shrinking baseball team?It's spri...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Dick Vitale to Rays owner Stu Sternberg: Sell the team

Dick Vitale to Rays owner Stu Sternberg: Sell the team

PORT CHARLOTTE – Dick Vitale, the Rays' most visible and, as of late, vocal fan, took to Twitter and the 620-AM airwaves Wednesday morning and later in the day in a phone call to the Tampa Bay Times to blast his local baseball team.Vitale, ESPN...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Winter Olympics: Thursday’s viewing guide

Winter Olympics: Thursday’s viewing guide

TV today6:05 a.m.-5 a.m. Friday NBCSNCurling (M) — Semifinal, United States vs. Canada (LIVE)Short-track speed skating — Finals, men's 500m, women's 1,000m, men's 5,000m relayBiathlon (W) — 4x6k relay finalCurling (M) — Semifi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

When the Lightning put wing Ryan Callahan back on the power play a month ago, there were many reasons for the move.With Ondrej Palat suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 20, Tampa Bay needed a replacement who was fearless in front of the net and a rele...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingFeatherweights: Diaz vs. Terrazas11:30 p.m.ESPN2College basketballWomen: Maryland at Michigan6 p.m.Big TenWomen: LSU at South Carolina6:30 p.m.SECConnecticut at Cincinnati7 p.m.ESPNWisconsin at Northwestern7 p.m.ESPN2Winthrop at NC-Ashevil...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Winter Olympics: U.S. women end speed-skating medal drought

Winter Olympics: U.S. women end speed-skating medal drought

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Mia Manganello crossed the finish line, glanced at the video board and yelled. She then grabbed hands with American teammates Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe, and the trio thrust their arms in the air. The Americans had re...
Updated: 5 hours ago