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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
After a brief stay at Plant, ace Kayla Suskauer returns to the Holy Names fold.
By ANTHONY GAGLIANO
Published February 7, 2006
Kayla Suskauer's homecoming made plenty of people happy, starting with her former teammates.
"It was like a member of the family coming home," Academy of the Holy Names softball coach Al Peacock said. "They were all thrilled. They didn't want to see her leave in the first place."
Suskauer attended Holy Names for 10 years, beginning in pre-kindergarten, but when it came time to pick a high school, the talented pitcher chose Plant for a change of scenery. But after a few months, including a successful stint as a reserve on the Panthers volleyball team that lost to eventual state champion Venice in the playoffs, Suskauer decided to return to AHN, where her mother, Betsy, is a physical education teacher.
"I started reading signs that maybe it was best if she would come back," Betsy Suskauer said. "It was just a feeling."
A year from now that might not have been a possibility with the FHSAA's new restrictions on transfers. The Suskauers realized there was the possibility Kayla, a Times' all-county honorable mention pick a year ago as an eighth-grader, might have to sit out this season, but chose to make the move based on academics.
"I was most nervous about her not being eligible," Betsy Suskauer said. "She did not realize it was a possibility. But, we asked in the big picture, if she had to sit out the rest of the year would we do it, and the answer was still yes."
Luckily for the Jaguars, both schools approved the transfer and they'll have Suskauer in the lineup, though she missed Monday's season opener at Mitchell due to an illness. Suskauer used an overpowering arm to blow away the competition in 2005, tossing three no-hitters and striking out 136 batters in 103 innings. She went 11-3 with a 0.88 ERA for a 17-4 Jaguars squad.
"She's got four years ahead of her, and a lot of ability now and a lot of experience already," Peacock said.
Suskauer's varsity career began as a seventh-grader when then-coach Larry Rodriguez approached the family about her playing. The year before, Suskauer helped pitch the Tampa Bay majors within a game of the state Little League championship.
But Suskauer doesn't have to carry the Jaguars, thanks to the presence of senior shortstop Brittany Villa, a USF signee, and fellow pitcher Bethany Wagner, who has lost just once in her career.
"We have two good pitchers who complement each other," Peacock said. "We do not want to put the pressure on her to carry it. Some schools might like to do it. That's not how we do it here. We do not want to give her the impression to have to do that."
Suskauer still will have to play a vital role to keep AHN from avoiding the same heartbreak of a year ago. Robinson knocked top-seeded AHN out of the district tournament in the semifinals, keeping the Jaguars from the state playoffs.
"Naturally, they were disappointed because we felt we were the No.1 seed for a reason," Peacock said. "But we did not play up to our ability that game."