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Success in a smaller package

After transferring from Class 5A Countryside, junior pitcher Samantha Becker has led Cambridge to the Class A semifinal against Sheridan Hill.

Published May 20, 2004

TAMPA - Samantha Becker switched from big, bustling Countryside to smaller, quieter Cambridge last summer, and to be honest, she was a little worried.

"I didn't know anybody and I wasn't sure about such a small atmosphere," Becker said. "I also wasn't sure about the softball team. I mean, I was going from (Class 5A) to Class A.

"Before the first practice I was nervous about how the girls would play, but when I saw them fielding and throwing and hitting, I felt real good about it right away. You could tell there was plenty of talent here."

So much, in fact, that the junior would like nothing better than to play Countryside, a perennial power that was ranked No.1 in the country in 2001 and 2002 and won a state title in 2002, when Becker was an outfielder there.

"Oh yeah, I would play (Countryside) any time, any place," said a grinning Becker, whose stepsister Nikki Delandy plays for the Cougars. "I think it would be a great game."

Why wouldn't it be?

The Lancers (28-2) come into tonight's Class A state semifinal against Sheridan Hills after numerous victories against schools from bigger classifications.

No one has kept down their hitters. Four have averages greater than .450 (Becker, Valerie Kessel, Brittany Williams and Kendra Hurless), and the team is batting .367 and scores more than 11 a game.

Cambridge also has Becker on the mound, which is about all most teams would need. She has a 24-1 record, 0.49 ERA and 276 strikeouts in 143 innings.

Before the season, Lancers coach Raymond Tapia said he had heard about Becker but did not have an opinion because he had never seen her throw.

After watching her 60 mph fastball along with a riser, curve, drop and changeup - all on the corners - he was sold.

"I felt then that this might be the most athletic team Cambridge has ever had," Tapia said. "I still feel that way."

When high school is finished, Becker said she hopes to earn a college softball scholarship, which helps explain why she describes tonight's game as, "the biggest of my life."

"A lot of people will be watching to see how I do in a state final four situation," Becker said. "I can't wait. I'm not one to crack under pressure.

"I've also waited a long time to be in situation like this. I want to be on the mound."

Maybe the best news is the Lancers have no seniors in their starting lineup. Ranked No.1 in the state all season, they are a favorite for next season.

By the way, Countryside did not make it to the state semifinals.

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