By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002
TAMPA -- Little dust had settled from the high school state championships when many of the county's stars were back on the diamond for new seasons. Many of them play for the Tampa Mustangs.
The Tampa Mustangs under-18 team began the season where it left off last year -- by winning.
Last year, the team won the first Junior World Cup, sponsored by the International Softball Federation and played in Plant City. The Mustangs breezed through the international teams with a 9-1 record and beat China Taipei 4-0 for the world title.
Two weeks ago, with some players still tired from the high school postseason, graduation and college visits, the team won a Pony League national qualifier in Sarasota to earn a berth in a world series tournament scheduled for this summer.
Half of the players have been teammates since age 10, and through the years have won six national championships, plus the Junior World Cup title.
"All the seniors on this team and another Mustang 18s earned college softball scholarships this year," said coach Ray Seymour, who's also the founder of the Mustangs program. "They will play an Amateur Softball Association national qualifier June 8 and 9 in Tallahassee and a couple of national college exposure tournaments later in the month."
The Mustangs went 6-0 in Sarasota. On the mound, Kristen Folwell won three games, Beth DiPietro two and Amanda Cody one. The offense outscored its opposition 38-11.
Natalie Ippolito paced the Mustangs offense in the Pony qualifier, hitting .588 with three RBIs. Kaycie Maines hit .429 with five RBIs and a home run, and Heidi Wendel hit .412 with nine RBIs. Carly Griffin hit .376 with two RBIs and DiPietro hit .368 with four RBIs.
Laura Templeton, Tiffany Goolsby, Melissa Zick and Wendel led the defense.
"This has been an amazing team for many years," Seymour said. "All the players are highly talented. Even with all of its achievements, I believe this team will go all the way again this year."