The under-18 team has been led by the pitching of Bloomingdale's Stacey Bronson.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 11, 2001
BRANDON -- The Tampa Mustang Blues 18-and-under team has combined consistent hitting, strong defensive play and one of the best pitching duos in the state to qualify for the Amateur Softball Association National Championships.
Only 84 teams in each age group in the United States qualify for the tournament, which is Aug. 6-12 in Salem, Va. The Mustangs and Miami Mini Canes are the only teams from Florida to reach the under-18 tournament.
Stacey Bronson is one of the many reasons why the Mustang Blues have done so well. As a junior at Bloomingdale last spring, Bronson's 0.09 ERA was the lowest in the county.
Though the low ERA resulted partly from an error-prone freshman infield, she struck out 304 batters during the regular season.
Her defense is much better now. It is led by Casey Nash of Academy of the Holy Names, Hilary Parsons of Berkeley Prep, Jamie Carter of Durant and Crissy Santarelli of Hillsborough.
Behind the plate, she has Berkeley's tough catcher and heavy hitter Jamie Stephens.
In the outfield are speedsters Nicole Fenno of Berkeley Prep, Haley Mallory of Plant City, Ashley Fertic of Durant and Danielle Urbanik of East Bay.
Equally tough on the mound is Miranda Gunn of Plant City. Gunn pitched the Raiders from the celler in 2000 to the regional semifinals in 2001.
"We have a great group of girls on our team, and it is fun to play with them," Bronson said. "Everyone is like a superstar, and they are all very smart.
"We can possibly win another championship at the National Softball Association state meet this coming weekend (in Pembroke Lakes). Then we are going for the big one in Salem."
Last year, the team won the under-16 NSA World Series by going 9-0 in the 193-team tournament, including shutting out three of the top teams.
It also was named the outstanding team for Hillsborough County by the Tampa Sports Club.
Coach Gary Nash said he is happy with the team's progress and success.
"These girls are doing even better this season, and they are making some big sacrifices in their last summer before graduating from high school," Nash said.
"They are giving up beach parties, jobs and cash, and many other social events to practice almost daily and travel on weekends. Their parents are sacrificing also, but college scholarships are rewards they hope to get."
EXPOSURE TOURNAMENT: Between 40 and 50 college coaches are expected to attend the Florida's Finest Softball Exposure Tournament July 21 and 22 at the Greco Complex in North Tampa.
Ray Seymour, director of the tournament, said coaches from Arkansas, New Jersey, Tennessee and other states plan to scout the classes of 2002 and 2003.
Teams that will play include the Miami Mini Canes, Clearwater Bombers, Tropic Wave of Naples, Mustang Blues and Gainesville Gold.
"We invited only 16 teams and the best available," Seymour said. "Coaches are making the trip because of the quality of the players participating.
"It is really going to be fun to watch."