For the first time in three recruiting seasons, Pasco-Hernando Community College softball coach Norm Pingley has found all of his success north of the Pasco County border.
In the past, Pasco County softball strongholds such as Ridgewood, Pasco, Gulf and Land O'Lakes offered the most possibilities. But this year, Hernando and schools farther north will account for most of the new talent at PHCC.
"My big market usually is Ridgewood, but they only had a couple seniors," Pingley said.
"I wrote 66 letters inviting seniors to tryouts, but only 16 showed up. And most of those were players I invited personally. Pasco had a couple seniors, but they didn't send them. I never heard from Land O'Lakes. Ridgewood couldn't help. And Gulf didn't send any. I don't know what it is. It could be because we play slow-pitch."
Lisa Burnett, a versatile outfielder, heads the list of Hernando High prospects. She signed with the Conquistadors on April 21.
"Lisa is a really good athlete who also played basketball," Pingley said. "She's just an all-around good athlete with exceptional speed."
Lisa Miller, a catcher who missed her senior season at Hernando because of a technicality in eligibility requirements, may soon join her former teammate.
"(Miller) has made a verbal commitment, but we haven't done the paperwork yet," Pingley said. "She just hasn't decided yet. I'll probably let her ride until the middle of July, meaning I won't recruit that particular scholarship. She's a good athlete and a good kid. We're still assuming she's coming. I still think she's part of the fold."
If Miller opts for PHCC, she will be asked to move to third base.
A third Hernando player, Gulf Coast Athletic Conference player of the year April Talbert, was one of the finest pitchers in the state this season. But PHCC and the rest of the remaining junior college slow-pitch teams in Florida won't be switching to fast-pitch until 1994.
As a result, Talbert may well be an unwitting victim of the transition period.
"I think she'll come to PHCC, but I've got to worry about this year," Pingley said. "The only thing she can do is pitch. I don't know if I can justify that investment. I can't worry about next year. If I have three losing seasons, I go down the road."
Pingley has posted a 38-59 record in the first two seasons of PHCC softball.
"That's not that bad for a new program," he said. "Part of the problem _ and it's not an excuse _ is that most of our scholarships have to be given to fast-pitch players. But that will end next year, when all the community colleges in the state go to fast-pitch."
Two other Hernando County players got in under the wire this year _ infielder Vera Blevins and outfielder Veronica Carrero. Both are from Springstead.
There were no new recruits from Central, the third and last Hernando County high school.
Two players were signed from Clermont _ Angela Alaniz, a shortstop, and Holly Griffin, an outfielder.
Rebecca Winslow of Tarpon Springs is expected to sign with PHCC by the end of the week.
Rachel Lupien, an outfielder from South Sumter, rounds out the current list.
Pingley also had his eye on Lecanto's Caren Napolitano, but the shortstop recently opted for Columbus College in Georgia.
"I still have three slots open," Pingley said. "I'm still recruiting. I'll take 'em from anywhere as long as they can play. And I still have some housing available."
PHCC will play a 20-game scrimmage schedule this fall. The regular season begins in February.