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Pitching staff propels Bullets' under-14 team


© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 11, 2001

In most major club softball tournaments, the formats are routine: wake up at the crack of dawn, play between two and five games, then sleep. Repeat the next day and the following day.

With such rigorous schedules, only the best teams survive through to the championship rounds. Or, more specifically, only the best pitching teams survive.

The 14-and-under Clearwater Bullets are proof.

With a rotation of four solid pitchers, the team won its second major tournament in as many weekends by claiming the International Softball Association state championship last weekend in Winter Haven.

Bree Spence (Countryside), Dani Hofer (Palm Harbor U.), Jennifer Jacobs and Natalie Bale shared the pitching duties two weeks ago when the Bullets won the AAU national championship in Concord, N.C., and again dominated at the ISA tournament, combining for six shutouts in nine games.

"We're real lucky to have the depth of those four," coach Ed Hofer said.

The Bullets lost their first game 5-0 to the Miami Mini Canes but came back with a 10-0 win and added three more shutout wins the next day.

After another loss to the Mini Canes, the Bullets had to fight through the loser's bracket. Pitching again saved the day as Hofer tossed a two-hitter in a 12-1 win over the Palm Beach Lady Gators to send the Bullets to the championship round against, again, the Mini Canes.

Hofer pitched another two-hitter in a 10-0 rout to force a second game, and Spence finished it off with a perfect game in a 3-0 win.

"She really had her dropball going, and between her and the second baseman (Sara Stack), they probably contributed 17 of the 21 outs," Hofer said.

The team didn't realize Spence had a no-hitter until after the game when a scorekeeper pointed it out. And not until later, after reviewing the book, did Hofer realize it was a perfect game.

"Really, our focus is strictly to win the game," Hofer said.

At the plate, the Bullets hit .342 during the weekend -- which rarely hurts a team, great pitching or not.

RALLYING: The 16-and-under Bullets came from behind in the championship game to win the National Softball Association (NSA) Ocoee West Orange tournament Sunday in Orlando.

The Bullets won five of six games during the weekend, including a 6-5 win over the Space Coast Stealers in the final.

The Stealers took an early 2-0 lead, but a single by Kim Formeller (Boca Ciega) and two-run double by Amy McGathey (Northside Christian) put the Bullets up 3-2.

Another two-run double by Jessica Byrn (Countryside) and an RBI hit by Caitlin DeCristofaro increased the lead to 6-2 in the fourth inning. Then, pitchers Cassie Pearson and Stephanie Smith extinguished the Stealers' rally in the fifth.

RECOVERING: Halle Painter (PHU) and Heather Sismilich (Countryside) of the 16-and-under Clearwater Lady Shockers remained in intensive care Tuesday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa following a car crash Sunday night in Palm Harbor.

According to coach Chuck Riggs, the players sustained multiple injuries when the Ford Mustang they were riding in as passengers flipped near the intersection of McMullen Booth Road and Tampa Road.

"They're making good progress, but there were significant injuries," Riggs said.

Painter and Sismilich played well at the ISA tournament and insisted their teammates go to Pembroke Pines this weekend for the NSA state tournament without them.

"Heather is adamant that she'll come out of her hospital bed if we don't play," Riggs said.

- Club softball update will run Wednesdays during the summer. Coaches with club softball news should call John Schwarb at 445-4170 or e-mail by noon Tuesdays.

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