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Coach works to boost girls

Sonny LeBlanc has been looking for ways to get more respect and opportunities for girls involved in softball, and he may end up creating a "League of Their Own."

LeBlanc, coach of the 14-and-under Tampa Bay Heat Wave and King High School softball teams, said he has been frustrated by the way girls seem to get "the leftovers" from youth leagues that cater "mostly to the boys."

But the long youth league softball season collides with the schedules of Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and National Softball Association (NSA) travel teams.

LeBlanc is working to form a softball league for girls that will have both slow-pitch and fast-pitch, with seasons scheduled to allow the younger girls to function like a prep junior varsity team.

So far he has coaches in several counties in central Florida interested in participating.

"There are more and more girls playing softball now and the Florida Fast-pitch Softball Association is growing too," said LeBlanc. "The girls keep getting better and deserve more consideration with scheduling and equipment in their sport.

"Between Little League schedules and cheerleading, I have not been able to get my entire 16-member team together yet, and we will be playing the state tournament this weekend already. Last year we were one of the top 10 nationally with ASA teams in our age group, and this year we are 10-9 for the season and haven't earned our berth in the nationals in St. Louis over the Independence Day holiday. Part of our record is because of not having the whole team together yet."

There are two 14-and-under Heat Wave teams, the Gold and the Orange. LeBlanc coaches the Orange.

Ashley Rayhl (6-4), Erica Hancock (2-3) and Carla Polk (2-2) are the team's pitchers.

First baseman Christy Wolovich is the leading batter at .400. She is followed by Dori Carson, who will be only an eighth-grader next year.

Dori plays centerfield and hits .360. She will be at Bloomingdale High School in two more years.

Misty Maxon, shortstop, is next with .330.

Madeline Hurrel and Jennifer Kennedy share the catching duties. Other infielders are Laura Bosek and Charlene Brown.

Outfielders include Heidi Buchanan, Jennifer Hills, Melissa Rosener, Liz Tozier, Jenny Large and Colleen Britt.

The team hopes to qualify for NSA nationals in the state tournament this weekend or at least in the smaller tournament the following week. With so many other teams already qualified, the Heat Wave has a better chance in the next two weeks.

Only the top two teams in each age group in a qualification tournament can move on. However, if the top two teams have already qualified, the third- and fourth-place teams will qualify.

If the top four teams have already qualified, then the fifth and sixth teams will.

Florida NSA

fast-pitch tourney

When: Friday through Sunday.

Where: University of South Florida Softball Complex and the Temple Terrace Recreation Center on White Way Drive next to Lewis Elementary School.

Who: 56 girls and women's softball teams in six divisions. Host is the Tampa Bay Heat Wave.

Schedule: Friday _ Eight games at 6 p.m. and eight at 7:45 p.m.; Saturday _ Continuous games from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday _ Continuous games until finals at 8 p.m.

Admission: $4 for a weekend pass, which includes program. $1 adults for daily admission, 50 cents for children.

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