Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay softball

Hillsborough County Player of the Year: SS Hope Hernandez, Sr., Chamberlain

Chris Urso | Times

Chamberlain's Hope Hernandez

Why we picked her: The Troy signee was the Jack and Barbara Thompson award winner as the top public school player in Hillsborough County. Her production at the plate (.516 average, 43 runs, 27 stolen bases) helped the Chiefs go 25-4, win a district title and advance to the 6A region semifinals for the second straight season. Each time, Chamberlain's season ended with a one-run, extra-innings loss to Lake Region, a state semifinalist each of the past two seasons. On defense, Hernandez made extraordinary plays look ordinary as she got the Chiefs out of some jams.

Memorable moment: In the regular-season finale, Hernandez had perhaps her best game to lead Chamberlain in a 2-1 victory over Steinbrenner. She led off the game with a single and scored the first of two runs in the first inning. In the field, Hernandez helped the lead stick by making spectacular plays on sure base hits. The biggest one came in the fifth inning when she seemingly popped out of nowhere to chase down a ball headed for the gap and whipped it to first for the final out of the inning.

Did you know? Hernandez can sing. She started in church but does not belt out tunes anywhere now except at home. What's next: Hernandez is playing travel ball with the Tampa Mustangs before reporting to Troy on Aug. 12.

Hillsborough County Pitcher of the Year: Ashley Blessin, So., Plant City

Chris Urso | Times

Plant City's Ashley Blessin

Why we picked her: Last season, Blessin had an impressive debut, leading the Raiders to the region final en route to being named the Times' Hillsborough County Pitcher of the Year. About the only thing Blessin was unable to do her freshman season was lead Plant City to a state semifinal appearance. That goal was marked off this season. Blessin finished with a 22-3 record, 0.54 ERA and 231 strikeouts. She had the seventh-lowest ERA and the sixth-most strikeouts in the state.

Memorable moment: For the Raiders to make their first state semifinal appearance, they had to get past a formidable opponent in the 8A region final. Lakewood Ranch was nationally ranked and had a potent offense that belted 43 homers. There were more than 500 fans in the stands for the anticipated matchup. Blessin kept Lakewood Ranch off-balance with a variety of pitches. She allowed four hits and finished with 15 strikeouts in a 1-0, 11-inning victory.

Did you know? Blessin's father, Gary, is a former high school coach that has been instrumental in her development. He is the pitching coach for Plant City and calls the pitches during games.

What's next: The Jacksonville commit will spend the summer traveling the country, playing in softball tournaments.

North Suncoast Player of the Year: SS Tia Williams, Jr., Land O'Lakes

Chris Urso | Times

Land O'Lakes' Tia Williams

Why we picked her: When it mattered most, Williams delivered. In the Class 6A state semifinals, she was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in a 2-0 victory over North Fort Myers that put the Gators in the championship game for the first time. In the 6A final, Williams was 3-for-4 with an RBI in a 3-1 victory over defending champion Plantation American Heritage. That's not all. She made two diving plays in the field in the championship game.

Memorable moment: Williams has a knack for scoring in crucial moments. She had the winning run in the sixth inning against Springstead in the region final. But Williams said her most memorable moment was the winning run she scored in the seventh inning against rival Academy at the Lakes in the regular season.

Did you know? Williams did not start playing softball until she was 12. She was more into basketball and track. In fact, she started playing basketball when she was 5 years old. Now, Williams concentrates completely on softball.

What's next: Williams does not yet have an offer to play in college. She hopes that changes after playing on the travel circuit this summer.

North Suncoast Pitcher of the Year: Callie Turner, So., Land O'Lakes

Chris Urso | Times

Land O'Lakes' Callie Turner

Why we picked her: This season, Turner had the unenviable task of taking over the role as ace from Shannon Saile, who led the Gators to the state semifinals last season and is now at Florida International. The transition was smooth. Turner, a Tennessee commit, was perhaps the most dominant pitcher in the state. She led the state in ERA (0.21) and was fifth in strikeouts (249) despite missing nearly two weeks while recovering from a back injury. Those impressive numbers were a big reason Land O'Lakes went on to win a state title.

Memorable moment: Against rival River Ridge, Turner helped the Gators exact revenge for an earlier defeat by throwing a no-hitter. But what made the performance stand out was that she finished with 21 strikeouts in a seven-inning game, meaning every out came via a strikeout. "That's something I've never done before," she said.

Did you know? Turner said she closes her eyes mid-pitch and does not open them until the ball hits her glove. It is something she did when she started pitching. Now it has become a habit. "It's more muscle memory now. I think if I opened my eyes my pitches wouldn't look as fast," Turner said.

What's next: This summer is an extensive travel season with stops in Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, Texas, Colorado and California with two different travel teams.

Pinellas County Player of the Year: SS Taylor Bump, Sr., Canterbury

Chris Urso | Times

Canterbury's Taylor Bump

Why we picked her: Before this season, Bump was not known as a power hitter. She had a combined 14 home runs the previous three seasons dating to eighth grade. But the Michigan signee wanted to make an impact in college so she started working out more in the weight room and with instructors. It paid off. Bump led the state in homers with 16, three more than anyone else. She also hit .532 and had 49 RBIs. Those numbers helped the Crusaders reach the state semifinals for the fifth straight season and win a state title for the third time in the past five seasons. In the 2A title game, Bump had the winning hit in the ninth inning to knock off two-time defending champion Aucilla Christian.

Memorable moment: Bump's most memorable home run was her first of the season. She hit a towering three-run shot in the first inning of a wild 11-10 win over Kissimmee Osceola. After that, she was walked five straight times, a sign she took as respect. "It was a highlight for me and my teammates because they had to do a lot of work to get the win, too," Bump said.

Did you know? Bump is left-handed. She plays ping-pong and writes with her left hand. But she is a right-handed thrower and hitter on the softball field.

What's next: Bump will play in six travel tournaments before reporting to Michigan in August.

Pinellas County Pitcher of the Year: Savanna Bennett, So., Palm Harbor University

Chris Urso | Times

Palm Harbor U.'s Savanna Bennett

Why we picked her: If awards were measured in power numbers, Bennett would not be the pick. She only had 53 strikeouts, far fewer than most pitchers in the area. But she won … a lot. In fact, her record was perfect until the Class 9A state title game when the Hurricanes lost 1-0 to defending champion West Orange. In that game, Bennett allowed just four hits, the same amount given up by her pitching counterpart, Lauren Mathis, a Georgia signee. Along the way, Bennett helped PHU beat Boca Ciega, Countryside, East Lake, Canterbury, Newsome and Tarpon Springs, all playoff teams, to win a district title and advance to the state final for the first time since 2005.

Memorable moment: Bennett said it was the first game of the season against Pinellas Park, a 2-0 victory in which the Hurricanes scored twice in the seventh inning. "Everyone was cheering and rallying around each other and it just kind of set the tone for us to be able to have such a memorable season together," Bennett said.

Did you know? Bennett was in a national honor society program in middle school in Atlanta and attended programs that involved detective work. That made her want to go into the medical magnet program at PHU and be involved in forensics work.

What's next: Bennett is playing travel ball and is trying to do as many camps as possible this summer.

Coach of the Year: Mitch Wilkins, Land O'Lakes

The fourth-year coach led the Gators to a win over defending Class 6A state champion Plantation American Heritage in the title game. It was Land O'Lakes' first fast-pitch title and the first for a Pasco County program since Ridgewood won in 1992.

First team

P Kama Woodall, Sr., Springstead: N.C. State signee was 20-3 with 0.76 ERA and 209 strikeouts; also had eight homers on offense.

P Alexis Kilfoyl, So., Academy at the Lakes: Alabama commit was 16-3 with a 0.85 ERA and 201 strikeouts while leading Wildcats to the region final.

P Alexys Lawson, Jr., Bloomingdale: Power pitcher was among the state's leader in strikeouts with 230.

P Ali Shenefield, So., Hernando: Breakout season included a 1.59 ERA and 205 strikeouts to help Leopards reach the region finals.

C Danielle Romanello, Sr., Canterbury: Florida signee finished stellar high career with .527 average, seven home runs and 26 RBIs for the state champions.

IF Haley Morrell, Sr., Holy Names: Florida Gulf Coast signee hit .500 with 11 home runs and 24 RBIs to help Jaguars reach state semifinals.

IF Edmilly Molina, Sr., Plant City: Palm Beach Atlantic signee hit .486 with 28 RBIs to lead the Raiders to their first state semifinal appearance.

IF Brooke Blankenship, 8th, Academy at the Lakes: FSU recruit hit .522 with six homers and 35 RBIs; also has one of the best arms in the area.

IF Bailey Wilson, Sr., Palm Harbor University: Four-year starter went 2-for-3 in state semifinals and made several stellar defensive plays in the title game.

OF Mia Buffano, So., Palm Harbor University: Florida commit hit .426 with eight homers and 36 RBIs; had 15 home runs.

OF Katie Hale, Sr., Holy Names: Cornell signee hit .420 with 19 RBIs for the state semifinalist Jaguars.

OF Alex Suarez, Sr., Chamberlain: Defensive specialist made several diving catches this season and hit above .400.

DH Paige Pfent, Sr., Springstead: North Florida commit overcame a slow start to hit .460 with six home runs and 36 RBIs.

UTIL Taylor Scott, Sr., Palm Harbor University: North Florida signee hit .360 and was 10-1 with a 1.02 ERA on the mound.

NORTH SUNCOAST: All-Pasco and Hernando softball teams.

Second team

P Haley Murphy, Jr., East Bay

P Jordan Almasy, So., Wesley Chapel

P Jordan Lewis, Sr., Countryside

P Savannah Farkas, Jr., Northside Christian

C Chloe Boos, So., Holy Names

IF Alexa Russo, So., Tampa Catholic

IF Reganne McCarl, Sr., Chamberlain

IF Bre Blankenship, Jr., River Ridge

IF Isabella Huff, Jr., Sunlake

OF Josey Sims, Sr., Hernando

OF Maggie Trgo, Sr., Newsome

OF Jada Radecki, Sr., Palm Harbor University

DH Kristina Foreman, Jr., Berkeley Prep

UTIL Shelby Westbrook, So., Land O'Lakes

PINELLAS: All-county softball teams.

Third team

P Melanie Rogers, So., River Ridge

P Abbey Primavera, Sr., Nature Coast

P Ashley Campbell, Sr., Canterbury

P Gabby Vallee, Jr., Chamberlain

C Kaia LoPreste, So., Riverview

IF Alex Hare, So., Mitchell

IF Abby Oliver, Sr., Springstead

IF Ashley Smith, Jr., Land O'Lakes

IF Madison Epperson, Sr., Tampa Catholic

OF Jessica Bryson, So., River Ridge

OF Samantha Hiley, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch

OF Caroline Jacquay, So., East Lake

UTIL Samantha Conlan, Sr., Robinson

DH Rebecca Catarelli, So., Osceola

HILLSBOROUGH: All-county softball teams.

Honorable mention

Admiral Farragut: Krystina Hartley; Academy at the Lakes: Jessica Mott; Alonso: Caila Weisman; Boca Ciega: Caylie Van Auken, Alanah Rivera; Canterbury: Madison Fine; Carrollwood Day: Emma Frost; Chamberlain: Maddie Lewis; Countryside: Makenzie Griffin; Durant: Sloan Hammons; East Bay: Rachel Kingery; East Lake: Athena Andrews, Tori Brennan, Kendyl Crean, Maddie Neuhaus, Nicci Palumbo; Gaither: Hailee DeCicco; Hudson: Tori Parker; Mitchell: Ashley Autuori, Bayley Williams; Land O'Lakes: Jessie McCallister; Nature Coast: Chayse Skinner; Newsome: Mary Beth Feldman; Osceola: Kayleice Hooks, Abby Sulte, Megan Weisenberg; Palm Harbor University: Kimmy Singer; Pinellas Park: Mariah Galhouse; Plant City: Lexi Moore; Robinson: Cassidy Renninger; Seminole: Jordan Day; Sickles: Lauren Lightbody; Springstead: Kayla Cruz; Steinbrenner: Emalee Jansen, Megan Pierro; Sunlake: Morgan Boudreau, Mariah Melendez; Tarpon Springs: Devyn Howard, Jenna Wojnar; Wesley Chapel: Neely Peterson; Wharton: Hana Schwindler; Wiregrass Ranch: Kameron Aitken, Kacie Lemanski

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Published: 04/22/18