Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Softball season preview

Land O’Lakes’ Michelle Bradley


Land O’Lakes’ Michelle Bradley

Terrific trio

Related News/Archive

The three best players on the North Suncoast, clearly, are Pasco's Colena Lazar, Land O'Lakes' Michelle Bradley and Mitchell's Olivia Kline. How do they rank? The coaches seem pretty confident Bradley is No. 1. They love her versatility (she can play any position, including catcher), her toughness (in big games, she is sterling) and her bat (North Suncoast-record 10 home runs last year). Lazar is the most dominant pitcher after winning 38 games the past two seasons and striking out nearly 400. She also hit seven homers last season. Kline hit .419 last year with nine homers and seven doubles and this year should emerge as a mound ace.

Softball season starts today, and it looks a lot like yesterday. The top teams? Same as last year. The top players? Arguably the three best from last season are back. So what else is new? Well, looking around, we wonder.

Super seven?

1. Land O'Lakes

Michelle Bradley (21 of 27 hits were for extra bases) is too good and gets lots of help from Loren Smith (.333, four triples), Jessica Austin (.381), Kasey Murray (.299) and Sam Adamo (.382, 23 stolen bases).

2. Pasco

Colena Lazar might be the best pitcher around. The Pirates have some nice sticks but holes to fill in the lineup.

3. Mitchell

Olivia Kline is a force (nine homers), but one thing has to change: Eight of 10 losses in 2008 were by one run.

4. River Ridge

Lost their ace but have potential replacements and solid bats in Sarah Simon (.513) and Madison Morris (.471).

5. Gulf

Seven of the 13 Bucs are freshmen or sophomores, but one of them is pitcher Sara Hill, a 10-game winner last year.

6. Nature Coast

The Sharks' junior trio of Lizzy Olmstead (.395), Jen Marshall (.377) and Ashley Antczak (17-5 from the circle) will keep them in the district hunt.

7. Zephyrhills

Wily veteran Craig Milburn lost a ton of talent but is 4-for-4 in playoff appearances and 82-30 since taking over in 2005.

New faces

Former Land O'Lakes and Saint Leo pitching standout Desiree Crouteau is an assistant at Bishop McLaughlin. Hernando County coaching icon Ernie Chatman takes over at Hernando Christian.

District breakdown

If there is a season that the three-year run of Class 4A, District 8 final pitting Pasco against Zephyrhills ends, this might be it. Zephyrhills lost a lot of talent and hasn't been able to replace it. And Gulf will have better pitching, led by the improved Sara Hill. Coach Rick Hohenthaner believes one day she will land in the same class of former local standouts such as Kiki Van Holt (River Ridge) and Amy Birch (Ridgewood). If not Gulf, look out for Nature Coast, which was 19-6 last season.

In Class 6A-7, Mitchell has to deal with a very good Countryside team and stud pitcher Alyssa Bache but compares favorably with the rest of the teams.

In 5A-7, it's really hard to envision anyone but Land O'Lakes and River Ridge colliding again.

Bishop McLaughlin should contend in 2A-9, and Hernando Christian's three-team A-6 district should mean a sixth straight trip to the playoffs.

Pitcher Amber Hay gives Academy at the Lakes a shot in A-11.

Sleeper team

Nearly every coach we spoke to said Sunlake (6-16 last year) will surprise some people this year. The Seahawks, who beat Hernando 6-4 in a preseason game, had some young talent last year. And while not ready to contend for a district title, they certainly can determine who doesn't win it if they can find some pitching.

By the numbers

1 Times Gulf has made the state playoffs (2005 was its lone trip).

2 Games River Ridge's Sarah Simon and Pasco's Lucy Schneider were held hitless last season, tops on the North Suncoast.

5 Straight playoff berths by Hernando Christian, Pasco and Zephyrhills.

7 More RBIs than anyone else Simon had last year in leading the North Suncoast with 48.

17 Years since a state championships was won by the North Suncoast (Ridgewood in 1992).

19 Multiple hit games by Schneider in 26 games in 2008.

.521 Schneider's average in 2008, best among returning players.

1.014 Slugging percentage of Michelle Bradley in 2008.

John C. Cotey will be covering softball on the North Suncoast this season. E-mail him at

Sleeper players

Keep an eye on River Ridge sophomore Lakyn Shull, who takes over as its ace. Sunlake's Samantha Dittman hit .414 last year and already has a preseason homer to start off 2009. Gulf's Taylor Bruckner moves into the cleanup spot, hitting behind the likes of Brittany Mayhill and Jessica Santoli. Pasco sophomore Courtney Brandt and junior Megan Newsome last year combined for seven doubles, four triples and four homers.

Fabulous five

Some players who will push their way into the upper echelon this season:

• Land O'Lakes outfielder Loren Smith is going to have a big year.

• Pasco infielder Lucy Schneider is the most consistent and underrated player in the county.

• River Ridge's Sarah Simon hit .513 with 48 RBIs last year and can do it again. Teammate Madison Morris is nice, too.

• Nature Coast pitcher Ashley Antczak might have a district title in her arm.

• Gulf speedy outfielder Brittany Mayhill should be the top Buc and already has committed to USF.

Softball season preview 02/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 8, 2009 6:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. If Tony Dungy sticks around, he'll broadcast the 2021 Tampa Super Bowl for NBC


    Lost in the Super Tuesday news of the Super Bowl coming back to Tampa was this nugget:

    Pictured, from left, Dan Patrick, co-Host, Tony Dungy, studio analyst, Aaron Rodgers. [Ben Cohen/NBC]
  2. Tragedy, tenacity helped shape Ridgewood valedictorian Johannah Cummines

    Volleyball Preps

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Even if her daily routine didn't permit calories to melt off, Johannah Cummines would deserve to pick anything on the menu.

    Ridgewood High senior Johannah Cummines and mom Chenell. Cummines is headed to Florida Atlantic, where she will play beach volleyball. (Photo courtesy of Johannah Cummines)
  3. Bucs Roberto Aguayo kicks off 2017 on the wrong foot


    The goal posts still seem to be moving for Roberto Aguayo.

    The Bucs woebegone place-kicker, who is in a battle with veteran Nick Folk, went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights, the first day of full squad Organized Team Activities.

    If that weren’t …

    Roberto Aguayo went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights.
  4. Rays morning after: Are cold bats a sign of things to come?


    How does an offense that has ranked among the most productive in the league for seven weeks go so cold?

    Steven Souza Jr. extended his weeks-long skid to 8-for-67.
  5. Calvary Christian takes strong lineup, defense to state baseball tournament


    CLEARWATER — No matter what happens in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal against Delray Beach American Heritage, Calvary Christian has already had a historic season. The unbeaten Warriors have won 28 games and qualified for the school's first state baseball tournament.

    The addition of Nolan Hudi to the rotation made a difference, said Calvary Christian coach Greg Olsen. “It was huge.”