For Dunedin's Gina Gibbs, the 1991 softball season was a three-month run through an emotional gauntlet. During the Falcons' latest fast-pitch campaign, the senior pitcher rocketed to the top, teetered briefly, but conquered her own discomfort and some teammates' brief disinterest to take her squad to a level it had never reached before.
For maintaining her composure amid both team and personal distress, Gibbs has been named the St. Petersburg Times Pinellas County Fast-Pitch Player of The Year.
"Gina had a great year; her best," said Dunedin coach Mike Hazel, whose Falcons endured a Gibbs injury and a late-season losing streak to come within an inning of winning the county's first fast-pitch state title. "She was real good, as far as pitching goes, and she also was good at the plate. She just was consistent all the way through."
Consistent, or more aptly, consistently dominating. Gibbs' 1991 stats had MVP written all over them: 177 innings pitched, 136 strikeouts and a 1.30 earned run average, plus a .435 batting average with seven doubles and a team-high 26 RBI. During the season's first two months she raced out to a 17-3 record and paced her team to a 17-4 mark.
Then, as the regular season began winding down, Gibbs' modified windmill wind-up began giving her trouble. An occasional twinge in her right forearm grew severe.The diagnosis: tendinitis.
The squad, which usually thrives down the stretch, lost its final three regular-season games.
"We may have been a little overconfident, but we just didn't have our heads in it the last couple of games," Gibbs explained once the postseason got under way.
But in the Region II final _ her first outing after a one-week layoff _ Gibbs twirled a four-hitter as Dunedin blanked Sarasota Riverview 2-0. In the 4A state semifinals she got even stingier, allowing Southwest Miami but a solitary single in a 10-0 Falcons runaway.
"I've been coaching too long to get scared about anything, but I've got to give credit to the whole team for never letting things get them down," Hazel said.
Joining Gibbs on the Times team are three Falcons teammates.
Catcher Shannon Sand was a solid .350 hitter and an even sturdier force behind the plate, with a .980 fielding percentage, 157 putouts and a county-best 33 assists. Sophomore Kim Lulek (.387 average) was an impenetrable cog at second base and was masterful on offense in the state semifinal game, legging out three infield grounders and scoring a run off each in Dunedin's 10-0 rout.
Shortstop Gina McGee was just as strong defensively, and led the team in hitting with a .462 average.
"Gina (Gibbs) was a great player for us, but part of that greatness was due to the players that were behind her," said Hazel, whose Falcons' team fielding percentage in 1991 was a sizzling .913; its collective batting average .343.
Also named to the Times squad were four members of the Boca Ciega team, which went a county-best 22-4 and won the 1991 Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship: Pitcher Nikki Farrow, outfielders Marcie Puckett and Tina Winters and shortstop Crisha Massieu.
For Co-Coaches of The Year the Times picks Hazel, of Dunedin, and Gibbs' Rick Bose.
Hazel, the only coaching holdover from Pinellas' inaugural softball season (1978), has known little but success in recent campaigns, taking four district titles, three region championships and two section crowns the past four years.
Bose, in only his second season, brought respect to the county squad which unquestionably needed it most. The Gladiators _ a woeful 17-118 from 1984-90 _ won four of their first five games of the season and wound up 10-11 _ Gibbs' second-best record ever.
On the 1991 Pinellas slow-pitch front, the story again was Lakeside Christian, which _ in its second season of sanctioned play _ won its second district title.
The Trojans, tagged in the preseason as the county's team to beat, lived up to their billing by going a dominating 18-5 and sneaking past Shorecrest in extra innings for the Class A, District 10 crown.
Lakeside also dominates the Times slow-pitch team with a county-high five representatives.
Lakeside's Carolyn Dohme repeats as the Times Coach of The Year.
The Player of The Year is Shorecrest's Lisa Blumencranz. The junior outfielder batted a sizzling .513 in 1991, with three homers, eight triples and 22 RBI.
All-county fast-pitch team
Po. Name School Cl.
P Nikki Farrow Boca Ciega Jr.
P Gina Gibbs Dunedin Sr.
C Shannon Sand Dunedin Sr.
C Heather Roosa Seminole Jr.
INF Crisha Massieu Boca Ciega Sr.
INF Gina McGee Dunedin Jr.
INF Patti Fleig Clearwater Jr.
INF Kari Lightner Clearwater So.
INF Kim Lulek Dunedin So.
OF Nacima Karouz Seminole Sr.
OF Marcie Puckett Boca Ciega So.
OF Tina Winters Boca Ciega Jr.
OF Cinnamon Stambaugh Tarpon Springs Jr.
UT Jenny Cavins Countryside Sr.
UT Jackie Smith Gibbs Sr.
UT Monica Wilson Tarpon Springs Sr.
UT Bridget Bowers Seminole Jr.
Boca Ciega: Kim Brasher, Becky Pratt, Leah McRoberts, Andi Aldridge, Dawn Egulf, Michelle Fournier. Clearwater: Tricia Van Wagner. Countryside: Stephanie Barnett, Jamie Amacher, Karen Gorlewski. Dixie Hollins: Mindy Nikolas. Dunedin: Natalie Davis, Amy Sparrow, Nikki Kerly, Becky Miller. East Lake: Kim Floding, Krista Hubbs. Gibbs: Angie Harrop, Kathy McWilliams, Jennifer Moloch, Melissa Ratliff. Lakewood: Missy Herbst, Casey Brubaker, Christy Viera. Largo: Jamie Kylis. Northeast: Billie Jo Borzelleri, Kelly Trumbull. Osceola: Heidi Swartz. Pinellas Park: Kerri Krooks. Seminole: Stacey Vaught, Deyon Kendall. Tarpon Springs: Mandy Wernsing, Heather Lyons, Briana Frigo, Kristi DeMerritte.
Player of The Year: Lisa Blumencranz, Shorecrest
Coach of the Year: Carolyn Dohme, Lakeside Christian
Po. Name School Cl.
P Terri Jack Lakeside Chr. Jr.
P Mindy Hayford Shorecrest Jr.
C Nicole Lamb Northside Chr. Sr.
INF Dawn Bouldin Lakeside Chr. So.
INF Kelly Moriarty SP Catholic Jr.
INF Brandi Koscielniak Lakeside Chr. Sr.
INF Lisa Schultz CC Catholic Jr.
OF Michelle Boykins SP Catholic Jr.
OF Lisa Blumencranz Shorecrest Jr.
OF Kristen Zschau Lakeside Chr. So.
OF Heather Sanford SP Catholic Jr.
UT Heather Leway Lakeside Chr. Sr.
UT Laurie Mentzer Northside Chr. Sr.
UT Keri Albritton SP Catholic Sr.
Clearwater Central Catholic: Jennifer Proly, Jen Harden, Colleen Linnert, Kate Uber. Keswick Christian: Sandy Hickox. Lakeside Christian: Jennifer Martin, Jill Cummings, Kelly Myrick, Jennifer Concannon. Northside Christian: Tara Barrett, Kim Holloway. St. Petersburg Catholic: Amy DiMeza, Jennifer Blumetti. Shorecrest: Lillian Nave, Colleen Dalton, Jennifer Hall, Julie Sauers.