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BRANDON - Softball had not been a high-achievement sport at Brandon for almost a decade. The Eagles have been dominant in wrestling, soccer, baseball, track, volleyball, basketball, cross country and several other sports, and now the softball team is beginning to demand respect.
Dee Heger is the new coach. She came on board with 12 years of experience coaching in the South Brandon Little League program. Many of the current players have been on her teams at South Brandon since the age of 8. Under the new management, and with some talented young players and an aggressive style of play, the Eagles are no longer automatic wins for county opponents.
In the Spring Break tournament a week ago, Brandon (10-5) beat Riverview (coached by former Eagles coach Angela Slater) 8-2, Bloomingdale 4-3 and Armwood 3-2 to capture third place in a field of 16 teams.
Because some of the Eagles played for Heger in Little League, they are accustomed to what she expects and respond with positive results. Freshman pitcher Megan Fenzau is a case in point. Though currently out with an injury, she is the top pitcher for the Eagles.
Her record is 6-3, with a 1.06 ERA. Offensively, she hits .448, is 2-for-2 in steal attempts, has an on-base percentage of .591, has three triples, a pair of doubles and leads the team in RBIs with nine.
A pair of sophomores, Heather Honcharik and Kamber Lucas, also are in the pitching rotation. Honcharik is 2-2 and Lucas 1-0. Fenzau and Lucas were injured last week and will be out until mid April. Caterina Corsini, a freshman capable of playing anywhere on the field, is the fourth pitcher. She also is a starting second baseman and fills in behind the plate and in the outfield when needed.
"I haven't found a place Caterina can't play and do a great job," Heger said. "She has a pair of younger sisters, Francesca (eighth grade) and Giulana (seventh grade) who are also talented softball players. All three should be on the same team in two years."
Five seniors provide leadership, firepower and defensive skills. Ally Maddox is the catcher. In 14 games, 10 players tried to steal on her and she threw out nine. Maddox hits .326. Senior third baseman Melissa Grajales is nicknamed "Cat" because of her quickness. In addition to a fielding percentage of .825, she hits .350.
Erin Decker, Jesse Trionfi and Brandy Jackson are the other seniors. Decker plays shortstop and has committed only one error in 15 games. She hits .385 and has an on-base percentage of .767. Trionfi is one of the fastest players on the team and hits .217.
Jackson hits .308, has six RBIs and plays rightfield. Her cannon arm has helped her make more than half-dozen double plays by catching a fly and throwing out a runner. Another freshman, centerfielder Skylaar Harris, leads the Eagles in hitting (.525).
"The team is coming along. They know they can win now and enjoy doing it. I expect a good finish," Heger said.