We're halfway home in the 2009 softball season (okay, maybe a little bit past half) so let's take a look around at what's happening with what we like to call a High Five.
Remember the Great Home Run Chase of 2008?
Seems like a loooong time ago.
Land O'Lakes' Michelle Bradley (a county-record 10 home runs), Mitchell's Olivia Kline (9) and Pasco's Colena Lazar (6) combined for 25 homers last season.
This year? All are having fine seasons, but have put only four out of the park: Lazar has three, Bradley has one and Kline has more triples (1) than homers.
Meanwhile Zephyrhills' Briana Blanyar and Lacey Cook and Sunlake's Samantha Dittman have as many homers individually as last year's record-chasing trio combined.
If Land O'Lakes had beaten traditional county power Zephyrhills by 10 runs, we'd be shocked. If Pasco had done it, we'd be stunned.
Wiregrass Ranch, which won one game last year, doing it?
(Get it? We're speechless.)
Wiregrass Ranch's 14-3 victory over Zephyrhills in February might not have ushered them in this season as a district contender, but the Bulls have proved they were not just an 11-hit wonder.
Behind Casey Raza (team-high .367 average) and pitcher Mary Sorgenfrei, the Bulls were 8-5 until their current three-game losing streak evened their record at .500.
"New coach, new attitude,'' said Sunlake coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team has been a bit of a surprise itself.
There's a few combinations of good sisters on the North Suncoast, but here's how we rank 'em:
Colena is still the best pitcher around, and sister Colesa swings just as mean a stick as her sister. Combined, the two Pirates are 34-for-73 (.463) with eight doubles, three homers and 24 RBIs.
Sunlake's freshman twins Meghan and Courtney are off to superb starts in their high school careers. Together they are 43-for-93 (.462) with six doubles, six triples and 34 RBIs. Meghan also leads the county with 10 pitching wins.
Erica and Demi have been all-county performers since they started playing for Hernando, and are off to great starts. They are hitting .500 (41-for-82) with two triples, eight doubles and 33 RBIs.
10 things to look out for
1. Land O'Lakes at Pasco next Friday. Lazar versus Bradley. A 9-0 team versus an 11-1 team. I'm so excited my chair is already set up behind home plate.
2. Pasco is still the favorite in Class 4A, District 8, but Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch, Sunlake, Nature Coast or Gulf could claim that second spot. That's either a deep district, or merely murky.
3. Nature Coast (8-4) has been flying under the radar, namely because it doesn't have a big win yet. The Sharks' schedule doesn't afford them many more opportunities, two of which come against Pasco and Zephyrhills.
4. Mitchell's path to the postseason is blocked by Countryside, Sickles and Gaither. That's a brutal road to travel, but the Mustangs split with the Gryphons and Cougars and seem to be peaking.
5. Ernie Chatman is 11-1 at Hernando Christian. We're not sure what that means, since he has 17 players hitting over .600 (we're exaggerating … a little), but the Lions may have a playoff win or two in them.
6. Does Gulf have a run in it? Pitcher Sara Hill missed time with a serious illness but is back and Jessica Santoli and Brittney Mayhill are each hitting .500. Hmmmm …
7. Dittman has 45 RBIs, and last year's season leader Sarah Simon had 50. Not sure what the county record is, but we may see it set this year.
8. Hudson (1-14) won its first game Thursday night, beating Bishop McLaughlin 11-1. Good for the Cobras, but it ruins next week's winner-takes-only-win showdown with Wesley Chapel, now 0-13.
9. Players who probably deserve more attention than they get: Sunlake's Alex Rogers, Land O'Lakes Loren Smith, River Ridge's Lakyn Shull and the Maldonado twins.
10. Some tidbits: Land O'Lakes has shut out seven of nine opponents; Pasco's Lucy Schneider still hasn't struck out; though not everyone uses it, Maxpreps.com has Hernando Christian's Heidi Riley (1.474 slugging percentage), Bishop McLaughlin's Amy Szymanowski (six homers), Gulf's Brittney Mayhill (29 steals) and Sunlake's Meghan Durbin (12 wins, including preseason) as the state leaders in each category.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Player of the year power poll
If we had to pick the best players in the county based on what we've seen, heard and know, at the moment it would probably go something like this (oh, and subject to change … lots of softball to play, ya know):
1. Colena Lazar, Pasco: Still the best combo of pitcher-hitter we've seen.
2. Michelle Bradley, Land O'Lakes: Fiery competitor has kept Gators unbeaten.
3. Olivia Kline, Mitchell: Keeping Mustangs strong in tough district.
4. Samantha Dittman, Sunlake: She can hit in the middle of any lineup.
5. Sam Adamo, Land O'Lakes: Is there a better leadoff hitter?
6. Lucy Schneider, Pasco: Best pure stick in the county.