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Team capsules

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


GULF

COACH: Jessica Winsbro, first year

LAST SEASON: 10-11

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Erika Ernst, So., P; Kerri Longnecker, Sr., C; Maggie Shaw, Jr., OF; Sarah Haney, Sr., OF; Belinda Hatch, Jr., 3B

OUTLOOK: Former Land O'Lakes catcher Winsbro, a Jerry English disciple, feels the team has the power to slug it out with the competition. Cleanup hitter Longnecker is a leader with Shaw, Hatch and Haney rounding out the middle of the order. The Martelli twins, juniors Keimi and Dyneka, battle for the leadoff spot.

WINSBRO SAYS: "(Longnecker is) awesome. She's got an unbelievable arm and she's got a great command of the game."

HUDSON

COACH: Linda McQuade (11th year)

LAST SEASON: 5-18

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kelly Qualtiere, Sr., OF; Sneha Kumar, Jr., C; Supria Kumar, Sr., P; Swarna Kumar, So., 2B/P

OUTLOOK: Hmmm, let's see. Wonder if the Kumar sisters will have a say in where the Cobras finish? That trio, along with centerfielder Qualtiere, will determine Hudson's fate. Supria Kumar will handle the bulk of the pitching and Swarna Kumar will bat cleanup. Qualtiere's speed makes her an ideal leadoff hitter.

McQUADE SAYS: "There's a little different attitude out there and that'll make a difference. They're having a lot of fun."

MITCHELL

COACH: Scott Bisbe, first year

LAST SEASON: New school

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Moira Gustin, Jr., SS; Brittnee Williamson, Jr., 2B; Laura Reeves, So., C; Tricia Blankenship, Fr., P; Michelle McDonald, Fr., 3B

OUTLOOK: River Ridge's former JV coach feels his first-year team will be better than most. Williamson and McDonald are leadoff candidates because of their bunting ability. Gustin, a converted outfielder, will bat third and Blankenship is the cleanup hitter. Samantha Evans anchors the outfield in center and Nicole Orlando plays first base and pitches.

BISBE SAYS: "I see us being very competitive, especially with Tricia on the mound."

RIDGEWOOD

COACH: Greg Bollinger, first year

LAST SEASON: 17-4

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bethann Blankenship, Sr., SS; Brandy Krieg, Sr., 3B/P; Breanne Hill, So., P; Courtney Kline, Sr., OF

OUTLOOK: Former Gulf coach and recent Ridgewood assistant Bollinger replaces a legend in Marlyn Bavetta, who coached the Rams to the only fast-pitch state title (1992) in Pasco County history. Ridgewood lost six seniors, but there still is a solid nucleus here in Blankenship (.313 hitter, 15 RBI), Krieg (.333, 14 RBI), Hill (.384, 6-2 on the mound with 78 strikeouts) and Kline (.375, 20 runs scored). Ridgewood has won nine of the past 11 Sunshine Athletic Conference titles.

BAVETTA'S LAST SAY: "I'm leaving (Bollinger) with really good players. (Ridgewood) should win the conference again and be up there in the district."

RIVER RIDGE

COACH: Ernie Beck, seventh year

LAST SEASON: 19-10

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Christine Beck, Jr., P/2B; Adrienne Cicirello, Jr., OF; Stefanie Simon, So., SS/P; Megan Fehley, So., 2B; Mandy Udovich, So., C

OUTLOOK: Co-captains Beck and Cicirello lead on defense and offense. Both play for the Tampa Mustangs club team and take the game seriously. Simon is a solid athlete who should steady the infield and provide Beck with some relief on the mound. Fehley, first baseman Jen Brumbaugh and third baseman Jill Hrovoski are returners, and Udovich should improve as a second-year starter.

BECK SAYS: "I lost two of my best outfielders (in Leah Plummer and Moira Gustin), so (Cicirello has) got to pick up the slack."

LAND O'LAKES

COACH: Jerry English, 25th year

LAST YEAR: 14-13

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ashley Patton, Sr., P; Jennifer Savage, Sr., C; Michelle Hausman, So., LF; Erica Skillman, Jr., 2B; Samantha Harvey, Jr., SS; Amber DeYoung, Jr., 3B

OUTLOOK: Patton, the Times All-County Player of the Year last season, will be relied upon to shoulder most of the load on the mound. Starting pitcher Amanda Harmon, who has missed all but a few games the past two seasons, will be out indefinitely while recovering from mononucleosis and surgery to remove a cyst. English will throw three young arms into the fire to give Patton a break. English has been impressed with his young players, especially the freshmen. The youth will combine with eight returning starters to form a formidable squad.

COACH ENGLISH SAYS: "We are progressing really well. This is probably the best ninth-grade class we've had in years."

PASCO

COACH: Willie Broner, first year

LAST YEAR: 8-20

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Nicole Norris, Sr., C; Kelli Pugh, Sr., 1B; Michelle Rubio, Jr., 3B; Kelli Kato, Jr., P; Christine Harris, Jr., P

OUTLOOK: Broner knows what to expect from hitting star Nicole Norris. Otherwise, Broner is going to try and change the style of play of the Pirates. Expect to see more bunting and more aggressive base running. Broner has kept the focus at practice on working together, realizing a team can't win without that.

COACH BRONER SAYS: "I just hope we can win a couple of games and see what it's like. I just want everybody to be team-oriented. If we lose, we lose together. If we win, we win together and if we cry, we cry together."

WESLEY CHAPEL

COACH: Tom McHugh, 2nd year

LAST YEAR: 2-17

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tiffany Williams, Sr., P; Melissa Reed, Sr., C; Heather Hartzner, Sr., SS; Meaghan McHugh, Sr., 2B; Sarah Vanbuskirk, So., 1B

OUTLOOK: The Wildcats enter the season with a year of experience, but they also have a tough district slate ahead. McHugh likens his district of Citrus, Crystal River, Hernando and Dunnellon to the NFC Central. The Wildcats have added another pitcher and that should help in the long run. Wesley Chapel should easily top last year's record and might even cause some problems for district foes by season's end.

COACH McHUGH SAYS: "I would like to be competitive and just not make mental errors. Physical errors are okay, but it's the mental ones that I don't like. They're a great group of girls and they pretty much aim to do what I tell them. As long as they keep that up, they'll be fine."

ZEPHYRHILLS

COACH: Pat Moul, 10th year

LAST YEAR: 8-19

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ashley Tunker, Sr., P/OF/3B; Amanda Griffin, Jr., OF/2B/P; Robin Hanlon, So., P/C

OUTLOOK: Even though Christine Bice, the school's single-season strikeout record-holder, has decided not to play, the Bulldogs should be strong on the mound. Tunker and Hanlon each picked up a lot of innings last year and Tunker pitched all summer. Moul is still sorting through her team now that soccer and basketball seasons are over. The Bulldogs' biggest weakness will be inexperience, but Moul hopes that will work itself out sooner or later.

COACH MOUL SAYS: "If they can all get it together, we'll be in pretty good shape. We have a lot of inexperience. We only have three returning varsity players. That's something that needs to be worked on."

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