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HomeTeam 15: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay

East Lake, which has won 20 straight, tries to keep its streak going the final week of the regular season.
Jordan Almasy and Wesley Chapel have rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2018 season. (Times)
Jordan Almasy and Wesley Chapel have rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2018 season. (Times)
Published Apr. 22
Updated Apr. 22

The regular season ends this week. The seeding for the district tournaments should be settled. Still, there is plenty at stake. Some players are on the verge of setting records. And most teams are trying to either maintain momentum or establish some at the right time.

The Elite

1. East Lake (21-1)

Up next: Tuesday at Palm Harbor University; Wednesday vs. Steinbrenner; Thursday (Pinellas County Athletic Conference game)

Last spot: No. 1

Why they stayed put: The Eagles beat St. Petersburg and Dunedin by a combined 19-0 last week to extend their area-best win streak to 20. McKenna Graham, Caroline Jacquay and Madio Stauffer each had multiple hits against the Green Devils. Nikki Steiniger was 2-for-3 with three RBIs against the Falcons. Tori Brennan threw a pair of shutouts, allowing a combined five hits. East Lake’s run of victories gets a challenge this week with games against Palm Harbor University and Steinbrenner, both ranked in the top 10.

2. Sunlake (18-2)

Up next: Monday at Wesley Chapel; Tuesday at Zephyrhills

Last spot: No. 2

Why they stayed put: The Seahawks came out of a busy week unscathed, beating Land O’Lakes, Dixie Hollins, Northeast and Clearwater to keep their 16-game win streak going. The 4-1 victory over the Gators was the first time Sunlake knocked off its rival in six years. Jenna Lord hit her seventh home run of the season against the Vikings and now has seven on the season. Kendra Falby had multiple hits in three of the four games and is now batting .521. The Seahawks have not lost to an area team all season and can keep that streak intact with wins over Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills to close out the regular season.

3. Plant City (18-2)

Up next: Monday at Sebring; Tuesday vs. Hillsborough; Thursday at Lennard; Saturday at Armwood

Last spot: No. 4

Why they moved up: Raiders ace Ashley Blessin continued to blank opponents last week, throwing a pair of one-hit shutouts against Bloomingdale and East Bay. She also had a combined 35 strikeouts in those two games, giving her 262 on the season. Blessin, who is averaging nearly 16 strikeouts per game, needs 58 more to reach her ultimate goal of 1,000 for her career. If she keeps up with her average, she can hit that milestone this week. Plant City has won eight straight, all via shutouts.

4. Chamberlain (16-3)

Up next: Tuesday at Jefferson; Friday vs. Robinson

Last spot: No. 7

Why they moved up: The Chiefs beat Hillsborough 11-1 and Gaither 13-2 to finish undefeated against Class 7A-8 opponents and clinch the top seed in the district tournament. Chamberlain has now won 14 of its past 15 games. The offense got off to a strong start last week, scoring five runs in the first inning against the Terriers en route to a run-rule victory. Lani Trent drove in a pair of runs in the other run-rule win against the Cowboys.

5. Newsome (15-4)

Up next: Tuesday at Leto; Thursday at Bloomingdale

Last spot: No. 3

Why they moved down: The momentum the Wolves had entering next week’s Class 9A, District 8 tournament was wiped away after a 9-2 loss to Palm Harbor University that ended their eight-game win streak. That loss dropped Newsome to 3-3 in district play and forced a four-way tie for first place in the standings. To get back on track, Newsome will have to turn to the depth on its offense. Bailee Leistl, Jadeyn Ruszkowski, Jada Smallwood and McKayla Timmons are each hitting above .460.

On the cusp

6. Hernando (22-2)

Up next: Wednesday at River Ridge

Last spot: No. 5

Why they moved down: A 3-0 loss to rival Springstead ended the Leopards’ 11-game win streak. Hernando did win its other two games last week, beating Cypress Creek 7-0 and Weeki Wachee 15-0. Ali Shenefield threw her fifth no-hitter and her fourth perfect game of the season against the Hornets. She also had nine strikeouts, giving her 288 to set the Hernando County record for most in a single season. Taliyah Dowdell also had a grand slam and finished with six RBIs in that win over Weeki Wachee.

7. Steinbrenner (15-4)

Up next: Tuesday at Robinson; Wednesday at East Lake; Thursday vs. Riverview

Last spot: No. 8

Why they moved up: The Warriors have won eight straight after beating Wharton 13-2 and Plant 7-1 last week. Haley Keeting was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored against the Wildcats. She followed that up by going 3-for-4 with two more RBIs against the Panthers. Teammate Emily Chiarella also had three hits in the win over Plant. Steinbrenner closes the regular season with some challenging games, including road trips to Robinson and East Lake, both ranked in the top 15.

8. Land O’Lakes (19-3)

Up next: Monday vs. Dunnellon; Tuesday at Academy at the Lakes; Thursday vs. Dunedin

Last spot: No. 6

Why they moved down: The Gators’ 11-game win streak was snapped with a loss to rival Sunlake. Land O’Lakes bounced back by rallying to beat Tarpon Springs 5-4. Trailing 4-2, the Gators scored two runs in the fourth inning to tie it and added another in the fifth to win it. Shelby Westbrook was 3-for-4 and Callie Turner went 2-for-2 with an RBI against the Spongers. Tuesday’s game against Academy at the Lakes matches Turner, a Tennessee signee, against close friend Lexi Kilfoyl, who is going to Alabama. The power pitchers are both on the USA Softball U19 junior women’s national training team.

9. River Ridge (16-5)

Up next: Tuesday at Mitchell; Wednesday vs. Hernando

Last spot: No. 9

Why they moved down: In their only game last week, the Royal Knights beat Gulf 10-0 in six innings (mercy rule). River Ridge had 17 hits, including three each from Alison Storms and Madisen Vozdecky. That was more than enough support for Melanie Rogers, who threw a one-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts. She now has more than 700 strikeouts in her career.

10. Palm Harbor University (17-6)

Up next: Tuesday vs. East Lake; Thursday vs. Clearwater

Last spot: No. 13

Why they moved up: The 9-2 win over Newsome was a huge confidence booster considering the Hurricanes had lost their previous three in the series dating back to last season. Mia Buffano hit a homer and Sammy Raynor had three hits. The pitching was led by Taylor Norwood and Savannah LePain, who held the Wolves to their second-lowest run total of the season. PHU will try to knock off another nemesis when it hosts East Lake on Tuesday. The Eagles have won the last three meetings going back to last season.

Don’t overlook

11. Academy at the Lakes (11-7)

Up next: Tuesday vs. Land O’Lakes

Last spot: No. 10

Why they moved down: Lexi Kilfoyl returned to the mound for the first time in a month last week. It was a tough assignment. Her first outing came against Lakewood Ranch, the No. 1 team in the nation. Kilfoyl gave up seven hits and seven runs in the loss. But she bounced back nicely against Class 3A defending state champion Admiral Farragut. Kilfoyl threw a two-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts in a 9-1 win over the Blue Jackets. Devyne Davis had the big bat in that game, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.

12. Robinson (18-5)

Up next: Tuesday vs. Steinbrenner; Friday at Chamberlain

Last spot: No. 14

Why they moved up: In its lone game last week, the Knights routed Blake 18-0 in a game that ended after three innings. Lindsey Chadwick was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Jocelyn Campo threw a one-hit shutout with eight strikeouts. Robinson has won 10 of its past 11 and will try to keep that momentum with a challenging week that includes games against Steinbrenner and Chamberlain, both ranked, to close out the regular season.

13. Springstead (17-5)

Up next: Monday at East Ridge; Wednesday vs. Nature Coast; Thursday vs. Central

Last spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: After starting 5-3, the Eagles have won 12 of their past 14 games, none bigger than last week’s 3-0 victory over rival Hernando. Jenna Ryan had the key hit, a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Mariah Galhouse did the rest, throwing a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts. Springstead will enter next week’s Class 6A, District 6 tournament as the No. 3 seed and most likely will face Crystal River if it reaches the semifinals.

14. Calvary Christian (18-3)

Up next: Tuesday at Indian Rocks Christian; Wednesday vs. Tampa Prep; Thursday vs. Seffner Christian

Last spot: No. 15

Why they moved up: The Warriors were dominant last week, beating Berkeley Prep and Tarpon Springs by a combined 27-2. Calvary showed off its power against the Spongers with Kaylin Cole, Hayley Eaton and Keily Ulatowski each hitting home runs. Eaton, a Georgia commit, was 3-for-3 with six RBIs and three runs scored. If the Warriors can win two games this week, they will reach the 20-win milestone in a season for the first time in program history.

15. Wesley Chapel (11-4)

Up next: Monday vs. Sunlake; Wednesday at Cypress Creek

Last spot: Unranked

Why they moved in: After advancing to the region semifinals in 2017, the Wildcats stumbled to a losing record last season. Part of that was dealing with an exodus of players who were reassigned to Cypress Creek. Wesley Chapel has since regrouped and is having a solid season. The Wildcats have won seven straight, including victories over River Ridge and Mitchell. Jordan Almasy, a junior who has already committed to UCF, is the team’s ace. She is 11-3 this season with a 1.70 ERA and 104 strikeouts.

On the bubble: Sickles (17-6), Mitchell (16-6), Freedom (13-2), Durant (13-5), Bloomingdale (13-6), Tampa Catholic (15-6), Canterbury (15-7), Alonso (10-8), Academy of the Holy Names (11-7), Wharton (10-7), Tarpon Springs (11-8)

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A little more than a month into the season, Nature Coast Tech sophomore Kennedy Weissman leads the state in scoring with 41 goals and 92 points, almost double the totals of the next closest player. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The sophomore has a whopping 41 goals so far this season, easily tops of any player in Florida.
  2. Largo's Julia Violante (6), center, gets a hug from teammate Sarai Faulkner (17), right, while joining Asti Luff (23), left, and McKenzie Emery (14) at midfield moments after scoring her second goal of the night (2-0) against St. Petersburg on Monday. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The University of Florida commit is having a banner season on the pitch, but is missing her biggest fan.
  3. Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, was a member of Men of Vision, a local non-profit for teens. He collapsed while participating in football conditioning drills at Middleton High School during the summer. [MEN OF VISION  |  Special to the Times]
    The death of Middleton High’s Hezekiah B. Walters during summer conditioning helps spark a bill that seeks better protection for players at practices and games.
  4. East Lake and rival St. Petersburg squared off Tuesday night, this time as non-district foes. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Eagles’ 67-30 victory over the Green Devils is their fourth straight in the series since late last season.
  5. Springstead guard Unique Torain makes a nifty assist during a victory at Nature Coast on Tuesday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Eagles are led by Unique Torain’s 18 points and unselfish play.
  6. Clearwater wide receiver Keedrik Murray (5) catches the ball for a touchdown during the first quarter at Gaither High on Nov. 15. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The 25th edition of the game will be held at Clearwater High.
  7. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott talks with receivers Mike Williams (7) and Artavis Scott (3) during a 2016 game at FSU. Scott was named USF's coach Monday. [DAVID GROOMS/CAL SPORT MEDIA  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Though not the bay area’s primary recruiter for Clemson, Scott’s fingerprints are all over the region.
  8. Tampa Catholic's Alijah Harrison attempts to block the ball from Andrew Jackson's Logan West during last year's state semifinals in Lakeland. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    Tampa Catholic holds on to the top spot after an impressive opening week.
  9. Tampa Bay Tech's Amiya Evans (30) drives the ball during the first half of the state championship game between Tampa Bay Tech and St. Thomas Aquinas last season in Lakeland. [Times]
    The big three stays the same, but Wesley Chapel moves up a slot in our latest rankings.
  10. Tampa Prep's Grace Langston (50), left, works to disrupt a shot attempt by Wesley Chapel's Mia Nicholson (12) during the game on Friday. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Wildcats lead early, then hang on to improve to 5-0 on the season.
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