Danielle Jones, Bishop McLaughlin
Last year, Danielle Jones put up impressive numbers in her high school debut, finishing third on the team in batting average (.423) and RBIs (11) as a freshman for Bishop McLaughlin.
But that did not translate into wins. As a team, the Hurricanes struggled, going 3-20.
This year, things are different.
Thanks to an infusion of talented players with travel ball experience, Bishop McLaughlin is off to an 8-4 start. The Hurricanes already have more wins this season than in their previous two combined.
"There were a lot of girls that came to our school who have played with me on travel teams," Jones said. "Just having that experience has really helped."
The district (Class 3A-4) is tough. Lakeland Christian is the defending state champion, and Cambridge Christian and Seffner Christian have previous playoff experience.
But the Hurricanes are within striking distance of claiming one of the top two seeds in the district tournament. A 1-0 win over the Lancers gave them much-needed confidence.
"It was so big to beat a team like Cambridge," Jones said. "It was the boost of self-esteem we needed because we're still a young team."
Jones has a lot of softball experience. She started playing when she was 8.
So far, Jones leads the team in hitting with a .471 average and 19 RBIs. Last week, Jones had one of her best performances of the season against Carrollwood Day with a double, a triple and five RBIs.
"I feel like I'm playing really well, but so are my teammates," Jones said. "We have the confidence to compete for a playoff spot."
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer
Josh Guerin, Keswick Christian
Josh Guerin transferred from Osceola after his sophomore year. The move was for both academics and athletics. Now a senior, Guerin has emerged as the Crusaders' top starting pitcher.
A left-hander, he is 4-0 with a 0.35 earned run average. In 20 innings pitched, he has recorded 27 strikeouts. What's even more impressive is that in a 9-2 win over Seven Rivers Christian last week, Guerin had seven pickoffs. He has eight overall.
"That is something that I've worked on with (independent instructor) Randy Kotchman," Guerin said of the pickoffs. "I try to freeze the runner and make them think I'm throwing to the plate. It's taken a lot of practice."
When he's not pitching, Guerin is the Crusaders' first baseman. He's not too shabby there, either. He is hitting .471 with three doubles for 10-0 Keswick.
The Crusaders, and Guerin, showed signs of success last season, winning 16 games. Guerin was 2-2 as a junior with 48 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.
He said he could tell before this season started that 2016 could be something special for his team.
"We have four seniors and lot of good younger players," Guerin said. "We were pretty good last year and we all think we can be even better this season. So far we're undefeated and I hope we can keep that going."
Rodney Page, Times staff writer