TAMPA — Sophomore slumps generally don’t apply to high school softball, where one is far more likely to encounter sophomore surpluses.
Whip through some area rosters and you’re sure to find a litany of talented 10th-graders, many of whom mastered a rise ball before mastering fractions. Which brings us to Alonso, seeded second in this week’s Class 8A, District 7 tournament.
Working behind senior ace Erika Shick is an all-sophomore infield that has helped propel the Ravens to a 17-5 record. Kiara Johnson, Jessica Warren, Jaylene Pryor and Elly Pillers have known each other since age 8, and have played together since their initial days with the Tampa Diamond Smashers at age 10.
Now, their cohesiveness transcends mere chemistry.
“We have a telepathy,” Pryor said.
Added Warren: “On the field, we just look at each other and do one hand gesture, and we all know what we’re talking about.”
Here’s a closer look at the foursome.
Key stats: .279, 10 RBIs
Did you know? Johnson, whose older brother Sherman starred for Alonso’s baseball team and now starts at third base for FSU, reads roughly 10 books a month.
Coach Robin Kopp’s assessment: “Fundamentally sound.”
Key stats: 13 home runs in last two seasons (including seven this year); three errors in 2012
Did you know? Warren ritually taps her ear and upper leg before stepping into the batter’s box
Coach’s assessment: “A playmaker.”
Nickname: Little Mouse
Key stats: .917 fielding percentage; four errors all season
Did you know? Pryor normally listens to Machine Gun Kelly’s Wild Boy before each game
Coach’s assessment: “Jaylene is consistent. You can see, she worked very hard to get to where she’s at.”
Nickname: E or Elly (her real name is Ellyse)
Key stat: Has committed one error all season
Did you know? The team hair braider, Pillers grunts — tennis player-style — with each swing
Coach’s assessment: “Unbelievable. …She’s going to shock you with the plays she makes. She doesn’t look like she’s a player, and it’s amazing the things that she does.”
8A-7 at Plant
Monday: No. 5 Newsome vs. No. 4 Wharton, 4; No. 6 Plant vs. No. 3 Bloomingdale, 7; Tuesday: Plant/Bloomingdale winner vs. No. 2 Alonso, TBD*; Newsome/Wharton winner vs. No. 1 Durant, TBD*; Thursday: final, 7
*Tuesday’s games are at 4 and 7. If Plant wins Monday, it plays the 7 p.m. game Tuesday. If Bloomingdale wins, it plays at 4.
7A-9 at Steinbrenner
Tuesday: No. 5 Wiregrass Ranch vs. No. 4 Gaither, 7; Wednesday: Wiregrass/Gaither winner vs. No. 1 Chamberlain, 5; No. 3 Steinbrenner vs. No. 2 Freedom, 7; Thursday: Final, 7
7A-8 at Hillsborough
Tuesday: No. 5 Brandon vs. No. 4 Hillsborough, 5; No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech vs. No. 3 Riverview, 7; Wednesday: Brandon/Hillsborough winner vs. No. 1 Plant City, TBD*; TBT/Riverview winner vs. No. 2 East Bay, TBD*; Friday: final, 7
* Wednesday’s games at 5 and 7. If Hillsborough wins Tuesday, it has the option of playing the late game.
6A-11 at Leto
Tuesday: No. 6 King vs. No. 3 Jefferson, 5; No. 4 Leto vs. No. 5 Armwood, 7; Wednesday: King/Jefferson winner vs. No. 2 Sickles, 5; Leto/Armwood winner vs. No. 1 Strawberry Crest, 7; Thursday: final, 7
5A-11 at Robinson
Monday: No. 5 Middleton vs. No. 4 Spoto, 7; Tuesday: No. 3 Blake vs. No. 2 Lennard, 5; Middleton/Spoto winner vs. No. 1 Robinson, 7; Thursday: final, 7:30
4A-9 at Berkeley Prep
Tuesday: No. 4 Sarasota Booker vs. No. 1 Holy Names, 5; No. 3 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 2 Tampa Catholic, 7; Thursday: final, 7
3A-8 at Bishop McLaughlin
Monday: No. 4 Tampa Prep vs. No. 5 Brooks-DeBartolo, 5; Tuesday: No. 2 Seffner Christian vs. No. 3 Carrollwood Day, 2:30; No. 1 Bishop McLaughlin vs. Tampa Prep/B-D winner, 5; Thursday: final, 5
2A-9 at Canterbury
Tuesday: No. 3 Bayshore Christian vs. No. 2 Cambridge Christian, 5; No. 4 Lakeside Christian vs. No. 1 Canterbury, 7; Thursday: final, 6