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Gaither girls make it to regionals

The softball team finished second in the district tournament, ahead of expectations.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


NORTHDALE -- For more than a decade, Gaither softball has enjoyed a tradition of tournament victories. In this season of rebuilding, Jerlyn Shaw's Cowboys still made it to the regional playoffs after a second-place finish in the district tournament. After upsetting Bloomingdale in the district semifinals, the team was beaten by archrival Sickles, which went on to become the state champions on May 10.

With five starters graduating this month, the Cowboys must reload again, a task Shaw is eager to tackle.

"Many so-called experts picked us to end up under .500 for the season and last in the district," Shaw said. "The kids on this team were overachievers. When I walk through the halls at school, all I hear is positive things from their teachers. I am very proud of the girls on my team, the 10 who played the most and the 10 backups who were always supportive."

Tara and Kelon Whelan, Brittany Groh, Tanya Solis and Cathy Coe were the senior starters on the team.

Coe was the pitching ace, who pitched the first and only perfect game in Gaither history. She also set a new school record at the plate with a season high .456 batting average.

To help the team, Kelon Whelan moved from the infield to behind the plate to fill the need for a catcher. With skill and intensity she learned to be an aggressive field general, calling pitches for Coe. What's more, she aggressively threw out six of nine runners trying to steal bases.

Twin sister Tara worked hard as shortstop, the most intense defensive position on the field. Shaw said she had her best season at the plate, hitting .388 for the season.

Groh, in centerfield, and Solis, in right, added speed and maturity on the perimeters. Solis threw out six batters going to first, preventing base hits.

Juniors Mirelis Torres and Alana Clough will be the only two starters back representing the senior class next year.

Torres scored 11 runs, recorded 14 RBI and hit .333 in addition to turning in accurate defensive play at first base. Clough hit .239, recorded four RBI, scored eight runs and used her speed to cover leftfield on defense.

Candice Gootan and Holly Forkel were the only two sophomores to earn berths in the starting lineup, but injuries kept them from turning in a complete season. Even then, as the designated hitter, Gootan was batting .423 before suffering a broken hand late in the season, and third baseman Forkel hit .200 in only 27 trips to the plate.

Shannon Rogue was the only freshman starter on the side. At first she struggled against the big girls, but made her niche at second base and hit .195, scoring seven runs and recording four RBI.

Completing the Cowboys roster were reserve players Brandy Kamm, Katie Timpone, Lauren Heiser, Lesley Lynn, Megan Page, Michelle Willis, Michelle Kmiotek, Sabra Taylor, Staci Lynn and Traci Gordon.

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