tampabay.com

The chase for eight

By IZZY GOULD
Published March 21, 2007


Jessica Davis 6

Zephyrhills; Junior; Shortstop

Batting a cool .510 at last check, Davis is a power hitter that can hit for average, too. One key to her success this season has been a new approach to allow her to become a more patient hitter. Instead of swinging away at the first pitch, Davis has no trouble sitting on the right pitch.

Courtney Stager (6)

Junior; Catcher

Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe has called her the best catcher in the state. Now she's proving she is one of the best hitters as well. With a batting average hovering around .400, Stager is one of those clutch hitters who brings in runs, whether it's belting shots over the fence or knocking in a few RBIs.

Ashley Stager (5)

Senior; Shortstop

The Florida State signee was batting somewhere in the .500s at last check and was hot on the tail of her sister and Davis after belting her fifth home run March 13. She provides lots of juice in her bat whether Bisbe needs a double, triple or home run.

Ashley Anderton (3)

Zephyrhills; Junior; First base

Anderton proved she could hit for power after belting a line-drive shot over the right-centerfield wall in a 5-4 win over Green Cove Springs Clay in last season's Class 4A region semifinal. Bulldogs coach Craig Milburn recalled people marveling at how fast the ball shot out of the park. He also remarked how hard Anderton hits the ball, harder than anyone in recent memory, he said. She also had two homers in an exhibition game against Mulberry.

Kalee Burchfield (3)

Pasco; Junior; Catcher

Burchfield has a mega bat with a whopping .610 batting average before Tuesday's game at South Sumter. With just two strikeouts all season, Burchfield has proven she is a threat at the plate and now has power to boot.

Reigning queen

Olivia Kline had the hot bat last season, setting Pasco County's single-season home run mark after belting eight home runs. Now Kline is among the chasers with just one home run this season.

Is the ball juiced?

Upon further review, we asked a few of the coaches to turn over a few softballs so John C. Cotey could take them to the Times' garage to cut them open with our table saw. Of course, with athletic budgets being as tight as they are there was no chance of that happening. So we took their word the ball covered in yellow leather and sewn together with red thread contained the typical mixture of kapok, cork, rubber or polyurethane.

Here's a theory

River Ridge coach Ernie Beck - he's been coaching softball since 1995 - thinks the Florida High School Athletic Association's decision to move the pitcher's mound back 3 feet to 43 feet might have something to do with the influx of power during the past two seasons.

"I've never heard of anyone hitting that many," Beck said of Kline's eight homers last season. "It used to be you put your lousy players in the outfield. But if you give a good hitter 3 extra feet, that's a lot of time."

Horse power

Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe predicted the Mustangs would break their single-season home run record of 14 earlier this season. Well, they tied the mark after an Ashley Stager two-run blast in a 5-3 loss to Gaither on March 13. Mitchell gets it next chance to break the record tonight when it hosts Gulf.

At this rate

I had to go to Cotey on this one because I'm not much of a math student. I fed him a bunch of numbers, and after a few hours he came back to me with these projections considering just one game in the district tournament.

Projected

home runs

Jessica Davis 9

Courtney Stager 8

Ashley Stager 7

Ashley Anderton 6

Kalee Burchfield 4

Official records

We checked with Sunshine Athletic Conference commissioner Keith Newton and Pasco County athletic director Phil Bell to see if anyone is keeping track of official single-season or career records. The simple answer is no. While records were kept for other categories from 1991-2003, no county official has kept track of any individual or team season records.

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (727) 580-5315.

A noticeable influx of home runs got us wondering who's hitting these things, where has all this sudden power come from, and where do these mammoth shots rate in county history? After a few hours of hashing it out, Times staff writer Izzy Gould filtered out the county's home run queens and has a pretty good idea whether the single-season mark of eight set by Mitchell's Olivia Kline might fall by the final pitch of 2007.