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Pitching trio has plenty of support

(ran PW, PS editions)

The West Pasco 9-10 All-Stars softball team will ride three strong right arms into the District 12 tournament: 9-year-olds Carrie Davis and Amber Maxey and 10-year-old Chelsea Gorr.

But that's just the start for a talented All-Stars team.

"I'm very impressed with them; we've got three very strong pitchers," manager Janet Maxey said. "It's pretty exciting for us. I foresee this team doing very well. This is probably the best 9-10-year-old team we've seen in a while."

From the mound to the plate to the infield and out, this team shows much promise. Experience is a big key for the All-Stars.

Though only four girls are back from last year's roster, the team still has veterans. Two 9-year-olds and two 10-year-olds came from the regular-season major-league ranks, and the rest come from the minor league.

Davis will start Tuesday's 7 p.m. opener against Monday's Safety Harbor-Palm Harbor winner at Countryside, but the manager feels confident sending anyone to the mound and expects them to do well without too much relief from the others.

"The two 9-year-olds are very strong, and the 10-year-old is right there with them," Maxey said. "Carrie is a little faster. You normally don't see that much speed in a 9-year-old. She can hurl it, oh yes she can. She's very focused, too.

"In all honesty, the first game, Carrie just might (pitch) it all on her own. If we need to, Amber is there for backup."

At the plate, the manager said she has plenty of hitters who can get the ball into the outfield, and they're quickly learning how to do other things with the bat.

"They're not used to bunting, but they're right on top of it," Maxey said. "We have some strong bats. We have some that take take it out to the outfield. I'm really impressed with the girls."

Davis, Gorr and Amber Maxey also are among the top longball hitters, and Amber Jones and Katie Langan are good ground ball hitters.

Langan anchors the defense at short and is adept at blocking and knocking down infield singles. Jones is at third, Davis will catch when she's not pitching and Natalee Sesler and Haylee Dennis share second. In the outfield Miranda Moye is in left and Katherine Femino in right, and Dennis also can play center.

The group has gelled fast, the manager said, and that may be the most important factor this season.

"I'm amazed how quickly they've come together," she said. "I think we're going to have a pool party to relax them and to get them to spend time in a fun setting, because they basically work well together.

"They're pretty excited, and they're driven. We go from 6 to 9 in practice and they still want to keep going until their parents want to go home."

MAJOR SOFTBALL: Last year the West Pasco Major All-Stars softball team finished runner-up in the District 12 tourney.

That means the eight returning girls from that team and their new teammates have something to prove this year.

"This year's team has plenty to shoot for and we have a pretty good core returning," manager Dennis Martin said.

Martin hopes the All-Stars have a strong lineup, cobbled together from nine pitchers and eight catchers. All but two of the girls have All-Stars experience.

So pitching will be strong, but hitting and attitude may be the team's true strengths.

"We've got good contact hitters and some good speed," Martin said. "The key to our pitching is to get the ball across the plate. We have some that can really do that.

"I tell them this is a team that needs effort from every individual. If I figure that they're not playing hard then we won't waste any time. We'll get someone out there who will. We told them not to hang their heads.

"We really preach attitude on this team."

Sarah Simon, Megan Slotter, Ali Staggs and Brittany Martin are some of the top bats. Simon likely will bat cleanup and is the team's top hitter.

"I don't remember Sarah making an out in the regular season," the manager said. "She is probably the purest hitter I've seen, and I've been around softball for a long time. She's probably the purest hitter I've seen at this level with her skills at the plate. She's just incredible, both with contact and power."

Simon also is one of the top hurlers and will catch when she's not on the mound. The manager plans to rotate three pitchers through the first two games. Slotter, Simon and Brittany Martin will pitch Monday's 7 p.m. opener against Tarpon Springs at Countryside.

The second game will see a rotation of Holly Gorr, Kaleigh Hall and Alex Laton pitch. That kind of depth will help with back-to-back games. There are no lefties on the staff, and Shelby Bollinger, Lauren Gardiner and Rebecca Feiler will be held in reserve.

Defensively, another pitcher, Lyndsey Smith, will play left and anchor the outfield. "She's solid any place I put her," Martin said.

Stephannie Gonzalez, who will play shortstop and can catch, may be the top infielder. The Majors' defensive strategy is a simple one: Don't mess up.

"We're going to key on not giving anything away," Martin said. "We're going to play smart. We've actually worked really hard on turning the double play, and that's something you don't see a lot of in this age group.

"We shouldn't throw it away and make silly errors, and I think we'll be tough in that aspect."

JUNIOR SOFTBALL: The West Pasco Junior All-Stars softball team's rotation runs four deep.

But whether it's the first inning or the last, most teams in the District 12 tournament will have a hard time just getting past the No. 1 pitcher: Nicole Denney.

She'll start Monday's 7 p.m. opener against Tarpon Springs at Countryside. It is the start for Denney, but not the end. Her right arm can, and has, carried a heavy load.

"She's the starter, and she can come in anytime and finish a game if she has to, too," manager Eddie Stevens said. "She's as good as a backup pitcher as she is a starter. She's used to (pitching a lot of innings). She's been doing it as far as I know for the last four years. She's one of the hardest throwers we've got."

Kelly Zimmermann is the second starter and also will play third base. "She's pretty accurate and pretty quick," Stevens said.

Left-hander Rikki Cotto can pay first and pitch and can pose problems for teams dominated by right-handed batters. "She can throw them off quite a bit," Stevens said.

Alisha Maxey, who will pitch and play second, most likely will relieve. If the team gets far into the tournament, though, she'll be called upon to start.

Offensively, the bats of Cotto, Denney, Danielle Fennimore, Kathy Nagy and Breanne Monaco lead the team, and Monaco is its best baserunner.

"(In the lineup) there's power, there's strategy and there's speed," Stevens said. "The girls are a really good combination of all of those."

Defensively, Stevens said the team is solid, especially with Nagy in centerfield.

"We're good all the way around," Stevens said. "But if somebody's looking to hit it deep, they're going to have to go against our centerfielder, Nagy. She's quick on her feet and can cover all of centerfield."

WEST PASCO ALL-STARS

9-10 Softball

ROSTER: Carrie Davis, Haylee Dennis, Katherine Femino, Chelsea Gorr, Amber Jones, Katie Langan, Amber Maxey, Miranda Moye, Carmen Pruitt, Cristen Pruitt, Natalee Sesler, Savannah Stacy.

MANAGER: Janet Maxey.

COACHES: Scott Davis, Bernie Moye.

Major Softball

ROSTER: Shelby Bollinger, Sammy Caruso, Rebecca Feiler, Lauren Gardiner, Holly Gorr, Stephanie Gonzalez, Kaleigh Hall, Alex Laton, Brittany Martin, Kristen Newton, Sarah Simon, Megan Slotter, Lindsey Smith, Ali Staggs.

MANAGER: Dennis Martin.

COACH: Scott Davis.

Junior Softball

ROSTER: Rikki Cotto, Nicole Denney, Devin Fellman, Danielle Fennimore, Amanda Gardner, Alisha Maxey, Breanne Monaco, Kathy Nagy, Jessy Ross, Lauren Stump, Kelly Zimmermann.

MANAGER: Eddie Stevens.

COACHES: Kail Gardner, Jose Ross.

_ Compiled by Jamal Thalji.

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