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Sister has own star power

Shortstop Christal Kotchman is doing her best to match feats with big brother Casey.

By JOE SMITH
Published May 27, 2007


Former Seminole star shortstop Christal Kotchman now has bragging rights over her big-league brother.

The Chipola Junior College sophomore made several clutch plays to lift the Indians to the National Junior College NJCAA Division I Softball World Series title last weekend in Plant City.

Christal's older brother Casey, an Angels first baseman, led Seminole to the 2001 national baseball title en route to the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.

But, as Casey has admitted, his kid sister has completed the feat more recently - making for one proud pappy.

"There wasn't a cloud in the sky the other day, but I thought I'd get struck by lightning like the guy in Caddyshack, " joked her father, Tom Kotchman, a longtime Angels scout. "We've almost been too lucky."

Lady luck wasn't always on the Kotchman siblings' side. Christal suffered a brain contusion in the first practice of her freshman year at Chipola after being hit by a pitch.

Six weeks later, Christal returned to practice and tore her left quad. Sad and sore, sister turned to big brother for support.

The two have been tight since they were toddlers; Christal threw Casey soft-toss, Casey hit Christal grounders and even pitched to her underhand - softball style.

"Hang in there, " Casey told Christal last year during one of their daily phone conversations. "It can only get better."

Casey, 24, spoke from experience. The former first-round pick was the Angels' 2006 opening day starter at first base, but ended up missing 128 games with effects of mononucleosis and a viral syndrome that left him lightheaded and dizzy.

Back on track this season, Casey was beaming as he received updates on Christal's national championship run from Tom, who was in Plant City.

There was Christal's epic, 20-pitch at-bat in the state semifinal against Gulf Coast Community College. The game tied and two outs, Christal battled from a 1-2 count to foul off 16 pitches before slapping a winning, opposite field single.

Then there was Christal's memorable Web gem, which came in the national title game against Northern Idaho. With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, NI loaded the bases with two outs. A sharp hit tipped off the pitcher's glove and up the middle for what seemed like a sure single. But Christal dove to her left, stopped the ball and flipped it to second for the final out.

It was Chipola's defense - and team chemistry - that helped spur it to the national title. The Indians often quoted lines from Christal's favorite flick, Bull Durham. Inspired by the movie, Christal said they forced their own rainout last month, turning on the field's sprinklers before sliding through the muddy infield.

"We just got one of those urges, " Christal said, "to do something crazy."

Christal will soon have plenty of time for water fun and beach bumming, as she has signed to play for the College of Charleston (S.C.). Before she heads to campus, Christal planned a "girls trip" with her mother and aunt to New York to see Casey play the Yankees.

"I'm so excited - I haven't seen him in a few months, " Christal said. "I'll have to fill him in with some good stories."

Fast Facts:

Age: 20

Local tie: Former Seminole shortstop

Honors: Made NJCAA All-Tournament team for helping Chipola Junior College win national championship.

2007 stats: .336, 34 RBIs

Next step: College of Charleston (S.C.)

Family ties: Father Tom is longtime Angels scout; older brother Casey is former Seminole star and now Angels first baseman