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Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam has covered high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times as a staff writer since 1996. He is a fourth-generation Floridian who graduated from Dixie Hollins High School and wrote for the student newspapers at St. Petersburg College and USF. He has covered the high school careers of football stars Riley Cooper (CCC/Florida/Philadelphia Eagles), Dante Fowler (Lakewood/Florida/Jacksonville Jaguars), Leonard Johnson (Largo/Iowa State/Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Dexter McCluster (Largo, Mississippi/Tennessee Titans), among others.

Phone: (727) 580-4395


  1. HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings


    1. Palm Harbor University (23-2)

    This week: Tuesday-Thursday (Class 9A, District 8 tournament)

    Scoop: The Hurricanes finished the regular season on a 10-game win streak after beating Clearwater 7-1 and Boca Ciega 7-3 in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. Mia Buffano and Faith Allen each homered against the Pirates in the championship game. Buffano, a sophomore, is hitting .467 with six homers and 30 RBIs. PHU has the No. 1 seed in the Class 9A, District 8 tournament and will host Sarasota Riverview in Tuesday's semifinals. ...

    Palm Harbor University High School varsity softball player Mia Buffano (3) heads to first base on a double during Tuesday's (4/18/17) game with Clearwater High School at Palm Harbor.
  2. HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 15-21


    Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 15 through Friday, April 21. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

    Female nominees

    Katie Barnett, track, Admiral Farragut: The senior, who signed with Princeton last week, won the triple jump (36-6.75), the long jump (17-3.5) and was on the winning 4x400 relay (4:26.43) at the Class A, District 6 meet....

  3. Palm Harbor U. ace Savanna Bennett a study in perseverance


    In one quick motion, Palm Harbor University ace Savanna Bennett extends her arms. Her right one whips around like a windmill as the ball whistles out of her hand. Her left extends enough in her delivery to show a tattoo written in cursive:

    "With pain comes strength."

    The pain comes from financial hardship. Bennett's father, David, went through a debilitating back injury that left him unable to work for two months earlier this year. That left little money for softball. The sport can cost as much as $4,000 a year with lessons, equipment and tournaments on the travel ball circuit....

    Academy at the Lakes Alexis Kilfoyl (19) makes a pitch during the game at Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
  4. Chamberlain prevails in defensive battle with Steinbrenner


    TAMPA – Nothing came easy for Chamberlain and Steinbrenner on offense Thursday night. 

    Bunts were scooped up. Short hoppers were smothered. Flyballs were snagged. 

    The regular-season finale for both teams was highlighted by defensive gems.

    Manufacturing runs took work. The Chiefs did enough right away, scoring twice in the first inning and holding on in a 2-1 victory. ...

  5. Boca Ciega softball looks for respect, playoff longevity


    GULFPORT — Two years ago, Boca Ciega made one of the most improbable runs in softball. The Pirates, 4-11 entering the district tournament, won five straight to make the state semifinals for the first time.

    The players, most of whom were underclassmen, were confident they could start competing for state titles.

    Boca Ciega coach Robin Little, who took over two years ago, was more cautious in her postseason prognostications. The Pirates moved up in classification from 5A to 6A last season. The district was more competitive. So was the region....

    Boca Ciega softball player Carmen Perez runs to first base in the game against Dixie Hollins at Boca Ciega High School Thursday, April 17, 2017.
  6. Land O'Lakes ekes out win in battle of sophomore aces


    LAND O’LAKES – The matchup on the mound was one of the most anticipated this season. 

    Academy at the Lakes’ Alexis Kilfoyl vs. Land O’Lakes' Callie Turner. 

    Both are sophomores who will be facing each for quite some time considering they have already committed to Southeastern Conference programs (Kilfoyl to Alabama; Turner to Tennessee).  The two specialize in shutting down – and striking out – opponents. ...

  7. HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Kendra Falby and Isaiah Bolden


    Kendra Falby Academy at the Lakes

    Falby is used to traveling fast in circles.

    It started in softball, where she was able to stretch singles into doubles or triples by flying around the bases.

    Falby wanted to gauge her speed against others. So she tried out for track as a seventh-grader last season. She became a solid contributor in the sprints.

    And she became faster once softball season started. Falby can beat out throws to turn groundouts into hits. She currently leads the team with a .571 average....

     Isaiah Bolden rests between drills during practice on Tuesday August 23, 2016 at Wesley Chapel High School, in Wesley Chapel.   Bolden is a four-star defensive back, who has already committed to Florida State.
  8. HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings


    1. Palm Harbor University (21-2)

    This week: Thursday vs. Clearwater; Friday vs. Boca Ciega (PCAC title game)

    Scoop: The Hurricanes extended their win streak with wins over Dunedin (15-0) and Newsome (5-2). The win against Wolves kept PHU undefeated in Class 9A, District 8 play. Mia Buffano hit a three-run homer against the Falcons, and Jada Radecki had three hits and three stolen bases against Newsome. The Hurricanes will play in Friday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game (opponent TBD). ...

    Things are heating up on softball fields all over Tampa Bay as districts approach.
  9. HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 8-14


    Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 8 through Friday, April 14. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

    Female nominees

    Taylor Bump, softball, Canterbury: The Michigan signee was 3-for-4 with a solo homer in a 10-4 win over previously undefeated Academy at the Lakes. Bump has nine home runs, tying her with three others for third-most in the state....

  10. Footwear-influenced futures? A reality for coveted hoops recruits


    TAMPA — Kevin Knox has an impressive stash of sneakers. He stores some of them in his closet. The ones that do not fit are stacked neatly in boxes on a bedroom wall.

    His collection includes all the name brands: Nike, Adidas, Under Armour. The latest inventory count was 113 — a number that will grow once Knox returns from New York City after playing in the Jordan Brand Classic. ...

    Look closely and you'll see the Nike logo on Tampa Catholic forward Kevin Knox's uniform and shoes. Nike gave Tampa Catholic $10,000 to 15,000 worth of gear this season. (Andres Leiva, Times)
  11. NBA or bust: Kevin Knox's lifelong push for the pros


    CHICAGO — His first thunderous dunk came on his second trip down the floor. The first 3-pointer on his very first shot from the perimeter. Dead on.

    Kevin Knox, the inscrutable Tampa Catholic senior, did what he does best while going through the usual assortment of monotonous drills: Score.

    The audience set this practice apart from countless others.

    More than 60 NBA scouts and general managers sat along the baseline as Knox and fellow all-stars prepared for the McDonald's All-American Game, the nation's premier high school basketball showcase....

    Kevin Knox looks over his speech with his father, also Kevin Knox, before the start of an assembly held to honor his recent recognition as the Florida Dairy Farmers' "Mr. Basketball" at Tampa Catholic High School in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Knox's father plays a significant role in coaching and preparing his son for dealing with the attention that comes with his basketball success.
  12. Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay boys soccer teams


    Pinellas Player of the Year: F Ervin Ikanovic, Sr., Northeast

    This season, everything came together for Ikanovic and Northeast. After years of struggling to stay above .500, the Vikings had perhaps their greatest run in school history. Ikanovic played a big role, helping Northeast win the Pinellas County Athletic Conference title for the first time since 2003, become district champions for the first time since 2008 and reach the region finals for the first time. "It's been a crazy ride. I'm a senior, so I wanted to make the most of this season."...

    Ervin Ikanovic, an 18-year-old Northeast High School forward, poses for a photo on the West Florida Flames field in Brandon, Fla., on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  13. Academy at the Lakes shuts out Springstead to remain unbeaten


    TAMPA – Monday’s game between Springstead and Academy at the Lakes was billed as a pitchers’ duel, a classic matchup between a pair of Division I-A-bound aces. 

    The Eagles’ Kama Woodall (N.C. State) and the Wildcats’ Alexis Kilfoyl (Alabama) did not disappoint. The two took turns racking up a dizzying amount of strikeouts. 

    Hits were scarce. So were runs. ...

  14. HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Marina Rao and Joshua Bowers


    Marina Rao Mitchell

    Rao was inserted into Mitchell's starting lineup in the season opener. The move did not come as a surprise to the freshman.

    "I had a feeling I could start because our coach (Scott Bisbe) knew about me since the seventh grade," Rao said.

    Rao's older sister, Demetria, is a senior who played for the Mustangs as a freshman and sophomore before giving up the sport to concentrate on academics. Marina often was in the stands for games....

    East Lake track and field athlete Joshua Bowers
  15. HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings


    1. Academy at the Lakes (14-0)

    This week: Monday vs. Springstead; Tuesday vs. Canterbury; Thursday vs. Seven Rivers Christian (doubleheader).

    Scoop: It was another week for the Wildcats, who beat Keswick Christian 13-0 and Citrus Park Christian 13-2 to remain undefeated. Sophomore Alexis Kilfoyl recorded the 500th strikeout of her career against the Crusaders. Shortstop Brooke Blankenship, an eighth-grader, also committed to FSU last week. AATL has perhaps the toughest stretch of games the next two weeks starting with Springstead on Monday and a rematch against Canterbury for the top seed in Class 2A, District 5. ...

    Kama Woodall is just as dangerous with a bat in her hand as she is on the mound for Springstead. (Brendan Fitterer, Times)