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Gryphon's goal: return to state

Julie Henneke has led Sickles to the final four twice by being an outstanding pitcher.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


TAMPA -- More than half the time Sickles' Julie Henneke steps to the plate, she gets a hit.

Although she is hitting .509 and has scored 22 runs, she doesn't have the county's best batting average. However, there are no other pitchers hitting above .500.

On the mound, she is 9-2 with 78 strikeouts and a 0.19 ERA in 73 innings.

Now in her fourth year as a starter, the senior has helped build a winning tradition at Sickles. She has been a major part of two teams reaching the final four and hopes to be part of the first state championship team.

"Julie has not just been there since our first season. She has helped us get there," Sickles coach Tammy Overcash said. "She has a strong will and a tenacity to win. Whether she is in centerfield, on the mound or at the plate, she just hates to lose. And that tenacity is contagious to her teammates."

Sickles started the season slow with two early losses. But it rebounded and now is 14-2 overall and 5-1 in Class 6A, District 7, which includes a split with archrival Bloomingdale.

In the latest battle with the Bulls, a 1-0 victory, Henneke pitched eight innings.

As a freshman, Henneke played in the state semifinals. Last year, she pitched in the final. Although the Gryphons lost, she received plenty of attention from scouts.

And before this season, she signed with Boston College.

"I loved the area. The coach is great, and the team made me feel right at home," she said. "I'm glad I put that decision behind me before even starting my senior season. Now all I have to focus on is helping my team and working on my books.

"This team is pretty young but very talented. I trust them working behind me on defense. They are like nets."

As a pitcher, Henneke has unlimited potential, Overcash said.

"She has an arsenal of pitches and controls all of them," Overcash said.

"She has a riseball, curve, fastball and changeup that all seem to be there when she needs them."

Henneke is quick to credit her teammates for her success.

"We have a bunch of great ballplayers, and the close win over Bloomingdale Tuesday night really brought us all together as a single unit," Henneke said.

"We have a great defense, but balance bests describes the team. We have a chance to go all the way to the final four and win this year. We are working hard for that."

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