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SPJC looking to repeat last year's success

The St. Petersburg Junior College women's softball team returns sixplayers from a team that gave the school its first Suncoast Conference title last season.

The Trojans finished as runners-up in the state slow-pitch tournament to eventual national champion Lake City and ended last year with a 45-20 record. They captured a conference crown and took ninth place in a national tournament at Hanceyville, Ala. "It was a marvelous year for everyone," SPJC coach Lance Lamport said. "It helped in recruiting, boosted our confidence and gave the players tournament experience that will help them this year."

Although the team has started slowly this season, Lamport said he believes the Trojans have the defense, experience and speed to equal last year's feats.

"I want to forget the first few games," said Lamport, whose team is 2-5. "There are some talented players returning on this team and we've brought in some new faces to aid our lineup. We will come together. The important thing is winning the conference."

SPJC is in a three-team conference with Hillsborough Community College and Brevard Community College. Only the conference champion automatically qualifies for the state tournament.

"It's early in the season," Lamport said. "We're healing from some fall injuries but these girls can play. I like the nucleus of this team."

Former Gaither star Shannon Abarbanel leads the way. The all-state

shortstop led the state last season in runs batted in with 80 and was second in hitting with a .598 average.

"Every time Shannon is at the plate she hits the ball hard.

Whether it's an out or not," Lamport said. "She is a gifted athlete."

Junan Hackerd, a high school teammate of Abarbanel's, also contributes to SPJC's explosive offense. Hackerd plays leftfield and was an all-conference selection last year, hitting .453.

All-conference outfielder Leigh Davis, formerly of Bradenton Christian, batted .450 and plays outstanding defense. Northeast's Angie Borzelleri returns at first base, Dunedin's JoAnn Smith at

second base, and Brandy Ruffin of Fort Walton Beach at pitcher.

Outfielder Chello Segrado, out of Seminole High, is one of the top

newcomers. Segrado gives SPJC added versatility and quickness.

"Chello has tremendous speed," Lamport said. "That's something we've added this year. She is a big bonus to our team."

Other newcomers will be Dunedin's Tina Gipner and Tracy Horak. Both will split time at catcher. East Lake's Michelle Prince will fill in as a utility infielder and Palmetto's Theresa Watts will share the pitching duties. Judy Travis, Shelly Schwartz and Wendy Victors give Lamport added depth.