Be on the lookout for Harvey Cassell's band of outlaws. They soon might be barnstorming through your town.
The Suncoast Outlaws are about to begin their second season as a touring girls softball team. The goal is to groom ballplayers for high school teams in West Pasco.
Cassell, who formerly coached girls teams in the Dixie Softball League, formed the Outlaws last season. The fast-pitch team traveled throughout the state playing in National Softball Association tournaments.
That 14-and-under team obviously forgot it wore an expansion label. Unlike most first-year ballclubs that struggle to compete with established teams, the Outlaws won right from the start. Suncoast finished with an impressive 29-16 record and reached four tournament championship games.
"I think we overachieved, because we had no previous tournament experience," Cassell said.
But he did have five players _ his daughter Amy, Courtney Kline, Missy Unmach, Supriya Kumar and Nikki Prack _ who reached the DSL state finals in 1996 with the West Pasco National All-Stars.
This year, the Outlaws will take the field as a 16-and-under team, primarily, Cassell said, "to keep the girls together. When they get in high school and college they will play three or four years together."
One year into the program and it already is earning a reputation for developing talent. Seven players from last year's squad made junior varsity rosters at Gulf, Hudson, Ridgewood and River Ridge this season.
Kline and Kumar, both of whom also catch and have played in the field, are the team's top pitchers, but the coach, citing the number of games played, said more help is needed on the mound.
"The NSA is strictly a weekend program," Cassell said. "You can start on Friday night and play right through Sunday."
In a tournament at Lake City last summer, the Outlaws played seven games in three days and finished fourth. Winning the title would have meant playing nine games.
While pitchers are welcome to try out for the team (interested ballplayers should call Cassell at 849-3071), the Outlaws appear set at every other position.
Kline, who led the team in hitting last year with a .560 average, catches or plays first base. Amy Cassell, a slap hitter with a steady glove, is at second base. The team's best athlete, Prack, is the shortstop. Unmach, a fearless fielder, plays third base. Lisa Karcinski catches and plays infield.
The outfielders are Krystal Myers, who also backs up Prack, Snepha Kumar, Meghan Alford, Denise Rohlfs, Miranda Rembiesa and Bejil Parikh, who also pitches.
A key to the Outlaws' winning ways has been team chemistry.
"Softball, baseball, basketball, football; they are team sports," Cassell said. "I tell the kids day in and day out, "I don't care how good you think you personally are, you're only as good as your teammates.' Team chemistry is there. Nobody gets down on nobody."
The Outlaws do not play their first tournament until mid-May.