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Largo focuses on First Coast

 
Published May 12, 1994|Updated Oct. 7, 2005

The catchword for Largo softball this year is "focus."

"We have to be focused and we have to have fun. We can't stop now," sophomore Leslie Allen said.

Why stop if the Packers are on their way to Lakeland for today's state semifinal game? They breezed through the county, the Class 4A, District 8 tournament and squeezed victories from their region and section playoffs.

But now that Largo (25-4) has reached the show for the first year, keeping the blinders on will be harder than ever.

Consider such distractions: Barron Collier, from softball-heaven Naples, is the marque team in the 4A tournament, expected to down Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas to reach the final game.

The Packers cannot think that far ahead, though. Tonight's opponent _ Jacksonville First Coast _ comes with some flashy numbers.

Star pitcher Jennifer Jones boasts 112 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched. Infielder Kirstie Dyal has a batting average of .650 and 55 steals. Tina Cannon has 46 steals, and Ellishia Anderson has a .638 batting average.

"These are some pretty big numbers," Largo coach Chuck Poetter admitted. "What are we going to do? We're not going to let them on base."

That may not be so tough to carry out. In the past 10 games, Largo has allowed just eight runs. Senior pitcher Jill Weaver has an ERA of 1.19 and averages four strikeouts per game, while her infield takes care of most of the defense.

The rest of the team is just as ready for First Coast. Although the Buccaneers are 28-2, there could be an asterisk next to their name; they switched from slow to fast pitch just this season, and not all of the players have league experience like the Packers.

Their extraordinary numbers of steals and hits might be due to the Jacksonville area's relative inexperience in fast-pitch, Poetter said. Conversely, three of Largo's four losses have come to teams with all-American pitchers _ Riverview (twice) and Venice.

Largo's final loss _ not exactly to a powerhouse, Zephyrhills _ was the one that turned around the Packers' season. Since that March 31 tournament game, the Packers have not lost.

The return of two players has helped the fuel the run. Allen came back for the district tournament after being academically ineligible earlier. She is now the leading hitter, with a .464 average _ 9 for 13 since returning. "She is the straw that stirs the drink," Poetter said.

And first baseman Renee King leads the team with the most extra base hits (nine), returning in mid-season from shoulder surgery.

Softball playoffs

At Southwest Sports Complex, Lakeland

Class 5A

Longwood Lyman vs. Cooper City, 5:30

W.G. W. Orange vs. Miami Southridge, 7:30

Class 4A

Naples Barron Collier vs. F.L. St. Thomas Aquinas, 5:30

Jax First Coast vs. Largo, 7:30

Class 3A

Pasco vs. Naples, noon

Jax Bishop Kenny vs. Bartow, 2:30

Class 2A

Tall. North Florida Chr. vs. Pierson Taylor, noon

Sara. Card. Mooney vs. Ft. Pierce John Carroll, 2:30

Class A

Tall. Maclay vs. Naples St. John Neumann, noon

Hilliard vs. Miami Westminster, 2:30

FRIDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIPS

Class A, noon; Class 2A, 1:30; Class 3A, 2:30; Class 4A, 5:30; Class 5A, 7:30