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TAMPA - Just about the best two things possible happened to Academy of the Holy Names this week.
No. 1: The Jaguars lost 11-6 to Land O'Lakes last Thursday.
No. 2: They defeated Land O'Lakes 5-4 on Monday.
"In the process," Academy coach Roger Rivard said, "we learned a lot about ourselves. I think this week also showed a lot about what we're made of."
Before the first loss to Land O'Lakes, Academy had beaten its first four opponents by a combined 34-0. The Jaguars had not, however, played a skilled team in such a high classification (Academy plays in Class 3A; Land O'Lakes in 5A).
"I think our girls might have been thinking, 'Hey, we're playing a really big school here and we're not such a big school,' " Rivard said. "So the first time we played (the Gators) our girls might have been caught a little off guard."
In that first game, previously unhittable starter Kayla Suskauer was touched up for nine hits (a few of which might have easily been ruled errors, Rivard said) and was, according to Rivard, "not as sharp as she usually is."
Still, after the loss, Rivard said he believed Academy (7-1) could defeat Land O'Lakes, and he told his team, "You are just as good as they are."
Academy shortstop Kristina Cruz (.435 avg.) said she firmly believed her coach.
"I thought we just made a lot of stupid mistakes (in the loss to Land O'Lakes)," Cruz said. "But they were mistakes we could easily correct."
On Monday, the Jaguars did.
Suskauer, 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA, was sharp and the Jaguars' bats were as potent as always. (Academy has a .385 team batting avg.) Cruz, as steady as any shortstop in the county (one error), also made a key defensive play in Monday's game. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, Cruz dived up the middle, snagged a sharp grounder, jumped to her feet and gunned down a runner at first base.
In the next two innings Suskauer pretty much mowed them down.
"We gained a lot of confidence by winning that game," Rivard said. "It showed what we can do."
ALL-AROUND ALL STAR: Gaither junior Morgan Grove arguably has had the hottest start of any player in the county - at the plate (.462 avg., seven RBIs, two home runs) and on the mound (52.2 innings pitched, .266 ERA, 51 strikeouts).
She also has done it against some of the area's toughest competition, including Countryside, Sickles, Riverview and Mitchell.
NEW LOOK AT NEWSOME: After winning four consecutive games, including victories over formidable Bloomingdale and Freedom teams, the Wolves showed they have made great strides in the past year.
Entering this week, Newsome, led by junior Ashley Stubbs (.400 avg., 1.00 ERA), was 6-3 and a force to be reckoned with in Class 5A, District 8, where it holds a 5-1 record.