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. 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."...

  2. 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. ...

  3. 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.
  4. 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."...

  5. 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.
  6. 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....

  7. 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.
  8. 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)....

  9. 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...

  10. 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....

  11. 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.
  12. At Grand Prix, trucks hope to be more than puddle jumpers

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — Stadium Super Truck drivers maneuver through dirt and asphalt tracks at breakneck speeds before flying over man-made jumps.

    On Saturday, they had to conquer a new element: rain.

    The series made its debut at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as drivers skidded through standing water after a downpour drenched the course during an abbreviated 10-lap race.

    "I didn't know it was going to be that gnarly out there," said Jerett Brooks, who finished second. "The rain was insane."...

    Robby Gordon leads as he hits the ramp coming off of Turn 1. On a wet track, Gordon, a veteran of the Dakar Rally and other off-road races, won the season opener in the series he founded.
  13. Softball: Walkoff homer lifts Canterbury past Northeast

    Softballpreps

    ST. PETERSBURG — Canterbury trailed Northeast 1-0 and was down to its final three outs when Hailey Hopkins came to bat Thursday.

    With a runner on first, Hopkins paused, took a deep breath and squared away as if she was going to bunt. Actually, she did that in hopes of seeing the ball better. The first pitch was thrown hard, inside and dangerously over the plate. Hopkins took a mighty swing, sending the ball deep into the night. It sailed over the wall in right-centerfield and landed inside a boat Canterbury uses for its marine science program....

    Canterbury’s Hailey Hopkins is all smiles after crossing home on a two-run walkoff homer.
  14. Ryan Briscoe lands a top ride with Ganassi

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — After Ryan Briscoe lost his Team Penske ride before the 2013 season, the 2009 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner wasn't sure if he'd be able to return to one of the sport's top rides.

    "You have your doubts, for sure," Briscoe said during Thursday's green flag luncheon at the Renaissance Vinoy Golf Club. "But I never gave up hope."

    The 32-year-old Australian, who has finished among the top five in three of his past four races here, simply bounced from one of IndyCar's powerhouses to the other, landing the fourth Chip Ganassi Racing ride in the No. 8 Chevrolet....

    Ryan Briscoe, left, and Will Power were teammates at Penske Racing. Now they square off as Briscoe joins Chip Ganassi’s team.
  15. Local Cape Motorsports team proves dominant force

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — Cape Motorsports is the pre-eminent team in IndyCar's developmental USF2000 series with its drivers winning overall titles the past three years.

    Last season, the St. Petersburg-based team was so dominant its drivers won 10 of 14 races. The team's top two drivers, Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico, routinely hogged victories, finishing 1-2, respectively, in the final standings....

    Scott Hargrove (center) won the USF2000 series title in 2013 and has moved up to Pro Mazda along with Cape Motorsports.