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Machen, Robbins give Seminole shot at glory

Karrie Machen is the senior shortstop whose glovework and range is noted by opponents trying to reach base. Nicki Robbins is the senior centerfielder whose rifle arm and speed is noted by opponents hoping to get an extra-base hit.

Together, they are Seminole's leaders and a big reason why the Warhawks figure to be in the playoff picture.

"We've been focusing really hard on districts," Robbins said. "We want it really bad. When the season started, we set realistic goals.

"Sure we'd like to get to the state tournament like everybody else, but we know if we have to win our district first."

Getting out of districts, though, has been a tough thing to do.

And for Machen and Robbins, its even tougher to explain why.

Seminole always has the markings for a district contender: gifted players, a solid feeder program, a strong tradition.

Everything but the district banners.

Performance has lagged behind the talent, which never seems to end at the school. But the senior tandem expect to compete for a district title, even though Seminole hasn't won one in eight years.

They know if the Warhawks remain good enough for long enough, like, say, all of next week's 5A-9 district tournament at Bomber Stadium in Clearwater, a championship can finally be theirs.

"I really don't know what's happened in the past," Machen said. "We'd do really well during the season and then things would just go wrong in districts. But we're ready and we want this. We're all family in a way, all pretty close friends who have been playing together since Little League."

Machen and Robbins have done their part to keep the family going. They are volunteer coaches with Seminole Little League, where they started playing softball.

They also helped this year's high school team, spending extra time after practice working with a young pitching staff and infield.

But it was their work on the field that has received the most attention. Last week, Machen and Robbins were selected for the Florida Athletic Coaches Association's Coca-Cola All-Star Classic next month in Orlando, the only Pinellas players selected for the squad.

"Coach (Mark DeRuzzo) called my house to tell me I was selected," Machen said. "It caught me off guard because I didn't know what it was about. But it's a pleasant surprise. It'll be fun to play against other seniors from around the state."

"I was thrilled to be picked along with Karrie," Robbins said. "We have confidence in each other when we're on the field. We're not best friends, but we spend every summer together. I look up to her and she plays really great. I just wish more players from the county could've been selected."