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Newsome's confidence snowballs into state berth after pair of tough late-season wins.
By BRYAN BURNS,Times correspondent
Published May 6, 2007
TAMPA - To understand when Newsome's softball team transitioned from just another good county team to one capable of competing for a state championship, one needs to look no further than a two-day stretch in mid April.
In back-to-back games against two of the county's best, Newsome shut out Durant 1-0 on April 13 - handing the Cougars their second loss of the season - and the next day came from two runs behind to defeat Plant 5-3.
The victory against Plant came on Newsome's senior night in the Wolves' regular-season finale. In six playoff games after that win, Newsome has outscored its opponents 50-11 in reaching the Class 5A state semifinals.
"When we beat both of them, it really made us feel like we could play with anybody, " junior pitcher Ashley Stubbs said. "That definitely was the turning point of our season. Nobody cared about Newsome before. We felt we had to win against Durant to prove we were good, and then beating Plant right after made everyone take notice."
Stubbs was particularly impressive in both games, earning a complete-game victory in each. Against Durant, she limited the Cougars to three hits. She allowed two earned runs and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored against the Panthers.
"I wanted to beat Durant so bad, " said Stubbs, who enters Friday's semifinal against West Boca Raton with a 13-4 record and a 1.39 ERA. "I don't remember what anybody said to me that day; I was so focused on the game. I walked in the dugout between innings and didn't look at or talk to anyone."
"Those two wins, coming off the field, everyone was screaming we were so excited, " junior outfielder Jamie O'Hara said. "It proved to not only us, but our fans and coaches as well, that we can compete with anybody."
Those two victories also served notice that Newsome, with only one senior - catcher/designated hitter Ashley Albanese - may continue to be a force.
"With every year, the classes at Newsome are getting bigger and bigger, " O'Hara said. "We have more kids coming in, and our depth is getting to the point where we can compete year in and year out."
As for facing West Boca Raton, it would be understandable if the Wolves were a bit nervous about the school's first-ever appearance in a state semifinal game. But, more than anything, the players are eager to get out on the field.
"I've been bouncing off the walls all week, " O'Hara said. "We want game day to come."
"I just want to go out there and dominate, " Stubbs added. "I want to be known, and I want my team to be known. We have so many good players, and I want them to get the recognition they deserve."
All games at Plant City Stadium
Countryside (24-5) vs. Miami Palmetto (26-3), 2 p.m. Friday
Chamberlain (28-2) vs. Pace (23-5), 5 p.m. Friday
Newsome (23-5) vs. West Boca Raton (17-12), 7 p.m. Friday
Pasco (26-4) vs. Okeechobee (25-3), 5 p.m. Wednesday