Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam is a fourth-generation Floridian who was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from Dixie Hollins High School (Class of '91). He went to St. Petersburg College (1991-93) and USF (1993-95) before working at the Times as a staff writer in 1996.

Phone: (727) 445-4169

Email: putnam@tampabay.com

  1. Region softball: Canterbury vanquishes first of many tough foes

    Softballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — To win its second straight state title, Canterbury has to get through a Class 2A region bracket that includes four other teams ranked in the top 10 of the state poll.

    The first obstacle for the top-ranked Crusaders came against No. 6 Cambridge Christian in Thursday's region quarterfinals. Canterbury did not have much trouble in a 5-0 victory. Up next for the Crusaders (19-6) is a region semifinal at No. 4 Academy of the Lakes that is a rematch of last year's state semifinals....

  2. Region softball: Sister act still intact at Dunedin

    Softballpreps

    For the past decade, it has become commonplace to see one of the Ehlers pitching for Dunedin.

    Amber started this sisterhood in softball as Dunedin's ace from 2004-07. She went on to pitch for Hillsborough Community College. Ashley took over from 2008-11 and is currently at Saint Leo.

    Aubrey has followed in the family tradition and is a three-year starter for the Falcons.

    All three had success at the game's most important position, but Aubrey has the edge in one important category: postseason appearances....

    Junior Aubrey Ehlers is the youngest of three sisters to start on the mound for Dunedin.
  3. District softball: Delay does Lakewood no favors

    Softballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — After securing its first playoff appearance in the Class 5A, District 10 semifinals, Lakewood was looking for more in the final against Bradenton Bayshore.

    The Spartans (15-11) were confident, especially after rallying to beat the Bruins last month to secure the top seed in the district. Lakewood played well in the title game but had its momentum halted in the sixth inning after a rain delay postponed Thursday's game. It didn't take long for Bayshore (20-4) to capitalize Friday, scoring three runs in the sixth for a 3-0 victory....

  4. Palm Harbor's Maddie O'Brien sets softball records at FSU

    Colleges

    Florida State shortstop Maddie O'Brien stepped to the plate Wednesday and did what she does best: turn two pitches into majestic fly balls that sailed over the fence.

    Those home runs gave her 20 on the season, which already is a school record and tied Texas-San Antonio's Megan Low for the Division I lead.

    That's not all. O'Brien, a former standout at Palm Harbor University High, leads the nation with 74 RBIs, which also are a school record. ...

    Florida State shortstop Maddie O’Brien credits less time in the batting cage and more time in the video room for her big year.
  5. District softball: Admiral Farragut nabs first playoff berth

    Softballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a ho-hum victory for Admiral Farragut, a 15-0 rout over Northside Christian that was cut short after four innings because of the mercy rule.

    But Monday's win in the Class 3A, District 10 semifinals was significant for the Blue Jackets, who secured their first playoff appearance.

    "It was kind of surreal," said first baseman Claudia Pizzarelli, who has played softball at the school since eighth grade. "We pretty much had to start from scratch. But this was our goal. It's everything we wanted, and it's such a great feeling to know we'll be in the playoffs."...

  6. Softball: Countryside wins PCAC title

    Baseballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — After a series of unforeseen scenarios, Countryside made an unexpected appearance against Northeast in Friday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference softball title game.

    The Cougars didn't secure its spot until Thursday, which didn't give coach Kaylyn Bayly much time to decide who would start on the mound. It was a difficult choice considering Countryside and Northeast also are the top seeds in next week's Class 7A, District 9 tournament. ...

  7. A tour of the tournaments

    Softballpreps

    Admiral Farragut and Lakewood routinely make the playoffs in just about every sport except one — softball.

    In fact, they're the only two Pinellas schools to have never made the playoffs in that sport.

    Next week, the long waits could end. The Blue Jackets and Spartans have the No. 1 seeds in their district tournaments.

    Farragut (13-2, 6-0), which started its program five years ago, is the top team in 3A-10. The program was started by Linda Derk, who has coached at the college and pro level, including the Tampa Bay Firestix (1998-2001). The Blue Jackets' best player is Corynn Miner, who has 163 strikeouts while hitting .711....

    On the mound, Admiral Farragut’s Corynn Miner has struck out 163 batters. At the plate, she is hitting .711.
  8. District track: Admiral Farragut ensures title this year

    Tranckandfieldpreps

    A year ago, Admiral Farragut's boys celebrated what they thought was a district track team title, only to realize a day later they had lost by a point because of a discrepancy.

    On Thursday, the Blue Jackets left nothing to chance and outscored St. Petersburg Catholic 174-122 to win the Class A, District 10 meet.

    "This was a much better feeling," Admiral Farragut volunteer coach Phil Barnhill said. "The boys were solid throughout the meet."...

  9. Recruiting: QBs face quandary with other sports

    Preps

    Largo's Donavan Hale and Clearwater Central Catholic's Jeff Smith Jr. are dual-threat quarterbacks who led their teams to the playoffs as first-year starters last season.

    They also are dual-sport athletes who soon may have to choose which sport is best in regard to their college future.

    Hale might be an even bigger star in basketball. He led his AAU team to two tournament titles last summer and the 6-foot-3 guard is ranked as the 13th best prospect in the state for the class of 2015 by espn.com. Last month, he got his first offer from Florida State, the same school where his father, former Packer standout Ron Hale, once was a star. The Seminoles' basketball offer does not come with a stipulation to drop football in high school....

    CCC quarterback Jeff Smith (6), who has a football offer from Wisconsin, also plays baseball but wants to get in front of football scouts this spring.
  10. Lakewood, Tarpon Springs get grants to improve athletic facilities

    Preps

    For years, Lakewood's athletic facilities have been inadequate.

    The ceiling in the gymnasium is so low that volleyballs often hit tiles during games, exposing air ducts and vents because the tiles are not replaced.

    The gym's seating capacity is so small that rivalry and playoff basketball games are usually moved to Eckerd College to accommodate crowds. The track on the football field is asphalt and has only six lanes, not the eight needed for postseason meets....

  11. Softball: Northeast eyes playoff berth

    Softballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — Riley Randolph stands on the mound, raising her arms far above her head before whipping a softball past another batter. Her repertoire — riseball, drop, curve and changeup — is made more effective by her velocity, which sits at about 60 mph.

    The Northeast ace collects strikeouts at a dizzying pace. The hard part is obtaining wins — and playoff appearances. Randolph, a junior, still is waiting for that elusive postseason appearance. Last season, the Vikings beat Pinellas Park in 14 innings in the district quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Countryside in the semifinals....

    Junior pitcher Riley Randolph has helped Northeast to a 13-5 record, including 5-3 (second place) in Class 7A, District 9.
  12. Two stars pull off PCAC quadruple

    Tranckandfieldpreps

    CLEARWATER — The plan was for Countryside's Andrew Llewellyn to anchor the 4x800 relay and concentrate on the 1,600 meters at Wednesday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference track meet.

    Llewellyn did that with ease, leading the Cougars to victory in the 4x800 in 8 minutes, 22.77 seconds to avenge a loss to Lakewood earlier this month. In the 1,600, he finished first in 4:28.78.

    But Llewellyn wanted more from his final PCAC meet. So the senior ended up completing a rare distance quadruple, adding victories in the 800 (2:01.15) and 3,200 (10:11.78)....

  13. Florida State League preview

    Minors

    Charlotte Stone Crabs

    (Rays affiliate)

    Address: Charlotte Sports Park; 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. From Tampa/St. Petersburg take I-75 South, get off at Exit 179 toward North Port/Port Charlotte, right onto Toledo Blade Boulevard, right onto El Jobean Road, Charlotte Sports Park will be on the left.

    TICKETS: $10-$12 day of game; box office, ticketmaster.com or (941) 206-3511...

  14. Softball: Northeast finds some offensive pop

    Softballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — Relynn Capra took a majestic swing, the bat rifling through the strike zone as she deposited the ball over the leftfield wall for a two-run homer.

    That sixth-inning hit gave Northeast some breathing room in a 6-2 victory over Seminole in a key Class 7A, District 9 game.

    It also signaled a turnaround for the Viking offense, which entered with just one home run and only one player batting above .300. The Vikings more than made up for that with eight hits, including six for extra bases. Capra, who has the team's two home runs this season, capped it off with her blast....

  15. New Port Richey's RC Enerson wins USF2000 St. Petersburg race

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — The turnaround for New Port Richey's RC Enerson continued Sunday with a dominating run at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that led to his first victory in the USF2000 championship class.

    "To get that first win is big," Enerson said. "To do it here at what I consider my home track is even better."

    Enerson turned Sunday's race into a game of follow the leader after blowing past Saturday's winner, Victor Franzoni, and avoiding leftover debris from an opening-lap collision that involved eight of the 18 cars in the field....

    RC Enerson of New Port Richey celebrates winning his first USF2000 race. It comes a day after finishing second and a month after winning two preseason races.