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TEAM OUTLOOKS

Gulf

COACH: Rick Hohenthaner (first season).

LAST SEASON: 1-19, lost in district quarterfinal.

KEY RETURNERS: Erica Ernst, P/1B, Sr.; Amanda Buchs, C, Sr.; Megan Johnson, 2B/3B, Sr.; Tiffany Stanjeski, P/3B, So.

OUTLOOK: Coming off a dismal season, former Ridgewood assistant Hohenthaner's goal is to change players' attitudes. Don't expect a major turnaround, as Hohenthaner is grooming a team of mostly underclassmen.

Hudson

COACH: Jim Johnson (second season).

LAST SEASON: 7-17, lost in district quarterfinal.

KEY RETURNERS: Courtney Law, SS, So.; Jennifer Strawser, 3B, So.; Jessica Borello, 1B, Jr.; Swarna Kumar, P, Sr.; Aly Towne, C, So.; Nikki Painter, OF, Jr.; Jena Heise, OF, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Law, the county's leading hitter (.519 average) as a freshman, leads a group of veterans that could help the Cobras reach double figures in wins. Kumar is the primary pitcher and should get plenty of support from a strong defense, especially the right side of the infield.

Land O'Lakes

COACH: Jerry English (27th season).

LAST SEASON: 15-10, district runner-up, lost in region quarterfinal.

KEY RETURNERS: April Slate, OF/P, Jr.; Samantha Cronk, OF/IF/P, So.; Michelle Hausman, OF, Sr.; Andy Babij, 1B, Sr.; Lauren Mays, OF/IF, Sr.; Gina Schiffer, C, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Slate (.453, 23 runs, 20 RBIs) and Cronk (.378, 24 runs, 21 RBIs) are triple threats at the plate, on the mound and in the outfield. Cronk may play more at second base. Hausman, a four-year infielder/outfielder, is the Gators' most versatile player. Freshman Rhiannon Bogaert may emerge as the ace. There is ample experience for a playoff push.

Mitchell

COACH: Scott Bisbe (third season).

LAST SEASON: 15-13, lost in district semifinal.

KEY RETURNERS: Trish Blankenship, P/IF, Jr.; Carly Mitchell, P/1B/OF, So.; Michelle McDonald, SS, Jr.; Jamie Case, P/2B, So.; Megan Fehley, 1B/P, Sr.; Alicia Nealon, C, So.; Cassie Markham, OF, So.

OUTLOOK: Blankenship, Mitchell and Case make this arguably the county's deepest and most talented pitching staff. The infield is solid, and the Mustangs, led by leadoff hitter Markham, run the bases well. Add outfielders Nicole McDonald and Joanne Brown and 2B/OF Amanda Graham, a freshman, and this could be the best Mitchell team yet.

Pasco

COACH: Shamalene Broner (first season).

LAST SEASON: 14-15, district runner-up, lost in region final.

KEY RETURNERS: Heather Stroud, P/C, Jr.; Kayla Bresch, OF, Jr.; Jami Pass, SS, So.; Kara Nathe, 2B, So.; Amy Herndon, 1B, Jr.; Leigh Driscoll, 3B, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Former Pasco and Florida State standout Broner takes over for Ray Carver, who coached the Pirates to a region final (an 8-0 loss to Class 3A state champion Bartow) before leaving for Berkeley Prep. Stroud, a strong catcher, is one of three pitchers with Ashley McSwain and Janelle Capehart. With no ace on the mound it looks like a rebuilding season.

Ridgewood

COACH: Greg Bollinger (third season).

LAST SEASON: 17-10, lost in district quarterfinal.

KEY RETURNERS: Breanne Hill, P, Sr.; Tera McCleary, OF, Sr.; Krysti DiMartino SS, Jr.; Missy Noriega, OF, Sr.; Melanie Boyer, C, Sr.; Jenna Lowe, 1B, Sr.; Nicole DeLeon, 2B, Sr.; Shauna Kortas, 3B, Jr.

OUTLOOK: The Rams are led by Hill, who tossed two perfect games, and McCleary, who led the team in seven offensive categories and can play center or right. Ridgewood has won 37 games in Bollinger's two seasons and, with eight returning starters, are built to win in the postseason. Many of these players have been youth-league teammates, and that familiarity could help in the playoffs.

River Ridge

COACH: Ernie Beck (ninth season).

LAST SEASON: 31-3, district and conference champs, state finalist.

KEY RETURNERS: Stefanie Simon, SS, Sr.; Kiki Von Holt, P, Jr.; Stephanie Seaman, OF, So.; Many Udovich, C, Sr.; Janet Houck, OF/IF, So.; Kelly Evers, 3B, Sr.; Danielle Denney, C, So.

OUTLOOK: Coming off a school-record 31 wins and having won its first playoff game, River Ridge nearly won a state title (lost Class 4A final 1-0 to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas). River Ridge remains strong despite the loss of six seniors. Von Holt (14-2, 0.71 ERA) is the ace, and Simon (.412, 36 RBIs, 30 runs) the offensive catalyst. Seniors Udovich and Evers and sophomores Seaman and Denney contributed to last season's run.

Wesley Chapel

COACH: Tom McHugh (fourth season).

LAST SEASON: 1-19.

KEY RETURNERS: Sarah Van Buskirk, 1B, Sr.; Cristal Hogsett, C, So.; Amy Benner, 2B, Sr.; Katie Timponi, SS, Sr.; Brenna McHugh, 3B/OF, Jr.; Jesse Luczynski, 3B/OF, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Van Buskirk, whose .481 average and 11 RBIs led the team, and infielders Katie Timponi and Amy Benner provide senior leadership. Two new pitchers, sophomore Dayna Glover and freshman Stephanie Debroux, who have a lot of experience, might help reach McHugh's goal of .500.

Zephyrhills

COACH: Pat Moul (12th season).

LAST SEASON: 13-11.

KEY RETURNERS: Jessica Reese, P/IF, Jr.; Tara Shea, C/OF, Sr.; Robin Hanlon, P/1B/C, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Moul never has had five pitchers to choose from as she does this season. The Bulldogs also are a versatile lot with 12 players capable of playing two or more positions. Pitchers Hanlon, Reese, Shea, Melissa Miller, Sara Johnson and Hillary Tunker should make the Bulldogs better.

_ STEVE LEE

DISTRICTS

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 8: Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Tarpon Springs.

CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 10: Pasco, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, Bartow, Mulberry.

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