tampabay.com

Softball: Springstead has tough tests ahead

Off to a 6-1 start, Springstead will see its true chance at the playoffs after this week's games.

By Izzy Gould, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008


SPRING HILL - Craig Swartout still wonders what kind of team Springstead can be.

The Eagles coach glances at the schedule and takes stock of what they have endured. A 6-1 record after Friday's 2-1 win against Central, not too bad, he says.

Then he studies the names of teams farther down on the schedule. The week ahead will be key for the Eagles in establishing themselves as one of the contenders in Class 4A, District 7.

That path involves games against arguably two of the toughest opponents in the district. There's Tuesday's trip to Pasco followed by a home game Thursday against Zephyrhills. Those games, followed by a Friday matchup with Hudson will test the character of the Eagles, who wonder if they stand a chance of breaking into the state tournament, which would require grabbing one of two available playoff spots in the district tournament.

"We're getting ready to play the meat of our schedule the next week," Swartout said. "We played a couple of weaker teams in the district, and we played a couple of tough ones. We don't have an identity. We don't know how good we are or how bad we are. We're working on finding out."

This year's Eagles have a nice blend of youth and experience. The five seniors are led by ace Becky Powell, considered the anchor and leader in the locker room. There's also a group of freshmen and sophomores contributing in various starting spots.

Shortstop Jamie Lee Basinger provides plenty of pop at the plate with a .360 average, freshman utility player Shannon Cataldo can plug into any hole on the defense and starting catcher Olivia D'Acunto energizes the team.

"She's very athletic and very spirited," Swartout said. "She's very competitive. That gives us a nice mix. There's never a dull moment."

The girls say the mix of seniors and underclassmen is never contentious. There's no animosity when younger players outshine four-year players. Embracing the team concept has helped the Eagles develop a mental toughness that will be tested this week.

"It seems like everyone wants to be there," Powell said. "In the past year it hasn't been like that. There wasn't a lot of dedication. We're all family. We make everyone fit in."

One example is the relationship between Powell and D'Acunto.

They began working together a few months ago, and chemistry isn't always seamless. But they have a relationship that's symbolic of the atmosphere in the dugout.

Senior, junior, sophomore, freshman? It doesn't matter as long as you can catch, throw and hit.

"I think we fit in with the team," D'Acunto said of the underclassmen. "There's a lot of younger kids, but everyone's had their game focused."

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or 727 580-5315.