This weekend’s goal for a trio of Brooksville softball programs seems simple enough – to end the five-year district title drought at Spring Hill’s Anderson Snow Sports Complex.
The double-elimination Dixie Softball All-Stars District 4 Tournaments are expected to begin at 6 p.m. today and conclude Sunday afternoon.
The field includes Brooksville, Wesley Chapel and West Pasco along with host Spring Hill in Darlings (ages 7-8), Angels (9-10), Ponytails (11-12) and Belles (13-15) competition.
Fourteen teams are expected to compete as Brooksville will not field a Darlings squad while Wesley Chapel does not have a Ponytails club.
Only the district champions in each age group advance to the State Tournaments running July 10-14 at Okeechobee.
The Sweeties (ages 5-6) and Debs (16-19) will not compete at the district level and instead automatically qualify for Okeechobee.
Brooksville hasn’t raised a district championship banner since Danny Harvey’s Ponytails in 2008.
The Brooksville Angels include: catcher/outfielder Sy Crowley, left fielder/first baseman Kyla Flood, outfielder/second baseman Parker Garman, third baseman Solaris Genberg, right fielder/second baseman Faith Holland, first baseman/shortstop Bailey Jones, second baseman/outfielder Hannah Lynch, first baseman/right fielder Brianna Mobley, catcher/outfielder Aryn O’Berry, shortstop/outfielder Lauren Sullivan, pitcher/outfielder Olivia Townsend and pitcher/shortstop Jadyn Wright.
Billy Jones will serve as head coach and be assisted by Richie Sullivan and Adam Wright.
Jones’ chances of advancement are bolstered by six returning All-Stars including: Bailey Jones, Sullivan and Crowley (Angels), and Genberg, O’Berry and Wright (Darlings).
At first glance Coach Jones believes this year’s squad is a little younger and less experienced than last summer’s team, but that there is plenty of potential.
He admitted that despite the overall youthfulness, this squad soaks in all the information being disseminated. Though he’s worked with his team an average of three hours per workout, many of the players go home and work out on their own.
On the hill, Jones’ title chances rest with right-handers Townsend and Wright.
“I’d put those two up against any 9-10-year-olds,” described Coach Jones. “This game is 90 percent mental. We stress to our pitchers after every pitch just keep it together.”
Defensively, look for Coach Jones to utilize O’Berry and Crowley as receivers, with Wright and Bailey Jones splitting time at shortstop while Lynch and Garman do the same at second base.
At the corner infield spots pencil in Bailey Jones at first base and Mobley at the hot corner. Sullivan and Crowley will split time in left-center and right-center.
Coach Jones enjoys his team’s versatility.
“Every kid can play a different position,” he said. “I don’t foresee any issues.”
Offensively, Coach Jones adheres to a hitting is contagious approach.
Look for Crowley and switch-hitting Wright to lead off, followed by switch-hitting Bailey Jones, Sullivan and Townsend.
Though Sullivan and Townsend “have some pop, we can play small ball, too,” pointed out Coach Jones.
The Brooksville Angels open at 9 a.m. Saturday morning against Wesley Chapel.
“Game 1 sets the tone,” declared Coach Jones. “It proves to the girls everything we’re trying to accomplish can come to fruition. We either leave that game hungry or we leave broken.
“We’ve got to put the ball across the plate,” pointed out Coach Jones. “And we have to put the bat on the ball.”
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Since Brooksville hosted the State Championship last summer, none of its teams played at the district level.
On their home turf at Tom Varn Park, Brooksville’s Ponytails went 2-2 under Kay Cozart.
This year’s team feature: first baseman Hannah Breedlove, center fielder Armariyah Burns, shortstop Arianna Calhoun, catcher Ly’Nia Fields, third baseman Alyssa Forte, second baseman Carolann Graham, pitcher Kaitlynn Johnson, left fielder Rindy Kline, center fielder Odaesha Richardson, right fielder Tajohnique Thompson, left fielder Kristen Tipton and right fielder Madison Zavrel.
First-year Tony Graham will guide the team’s fortunes assisted by Deanna Graham and Nique Mayhew.
Graham’s squad features four returning All-Stars: Calhoun, Fields and Forte (Angels), and Johnson (Ponytails).
Painting broad strokes, Coach Graham believes his squad is a little short on pitching though defensively pretty solid.
For instance, Coach Graham believes neither Johnson nor Fields will blow up a radar gun, but more importantly the team faces a serious drop-off after those two toe the rubber. Graham emphasizes to his pitchers to relax and clear their heads between tosses.
The team’s strength may lie with their defense. According to Graham, the majority of his team has played since T-Ball.
“We’ve got some quickness to the ball and they get the ball out of their hands in a hurry,” detailed Coach Graham.
Look for Brooksville to utilize Fields and Calhoun behind the plate, with Calhoun penciled to start at shortstop and Carolann Graham opening up at second base.
At the corner infield slots, Breedlove will anchor first while Forte will do the same at third base. Richardson, who “has a heck of an arm,” his coach said, will man center field.
At the plate, look for Kline and Calhoun to bat 1-2 followed by Forte, Fields and Johnson.
Brooksville opens at 6 p.m. today against host Spring Hill.
“The first game is important,” noted Graham. “We want to get that first win; it sets the pace. The whole season won’t hinge on that game if we lose.”
On the keys to success, “That we get the best pitching and play the best defense we can,” stressed Coach Graham.
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For their part, the Brooksville Belles went 2-2 at states last summer under Paul Sinwelski.
This time, the team features: pitcher/catcher Samantha Burnette, outfielder Brittany Dennison, catcher/outfielder Kelsey Elliott, outfielder Jessica Flaherty, outfielder/pitcher Lacey Garman, third baseman/catcher Irene N. Hoffman, pitcher/second baseman Karli Kimbrough, outfielder Breanna McAlpine, first baseman/pitcher Jane’a Mobley, outfielder Autumn Perry, shortstop/first baseman Nakayla Roberts and outfielder/second baseman Erica Siri.
Sharon Hoffman is the head coach and will be assisted by Alan Garman and Ray Perry.
Coach Hoffman has at her disposal seven returning All-Stars including: Flaherty, Garman, Mobley and Roberts (Ponytails), Burnette and Perry (Belles), and Irene Hoffman (Debs).
At first glance, Coach Hoffman believes this team is a blend of experienced and inexperienced players that could go deep in the brackets if the switch is on.
With three first-time softball players, Coach Hoffman is encouraged with all the cooperation her players have given to the younger kids.
On the rubber, Brooksville’s pitching hinges on its number one, Burnette, who throws hard, and number two Kimbrough, who is more of a control pitcher.
With the leather, Coach Hoffman plans to utilize Burnette and Elliott behind the plate with Kimbrough at second base (when she’s not pitching) and Roberts at shortstop.
Look for Mobley to anchor first base with Irene Hoffman at third. Center field will be split between Garman, Perry and Irene Hoffman.
Describing her defense, “Our infield is very strong and our outfield is a work in progress,” noted Coach Hoffman.
Though the Brooksville batting order isn’t set in stone, expect the switch-hitting Burnette and Roberts near the top along with Mobley and Irene Hoffman.
Brooksville opens at 8 p.m. today against defending champion West Pasco.
“If we don’t bring it (against West Pasco), it’ll be hard to come back,” addressed Coach Hoffman. “A win Friday night sets the pace for both teams.”
On the keys to success, Coach Hoffman hopes her squad, “Will bring a positive attitude and brings their bats.”
At a Glance
What – Dixie Softball District 4 Tournaments
Who – Brooksville, Wesley Chapel West Pasco and host Spring Hill.
Where – Anderson Snow Sports Complex.
When – Friday through Sunday (weather permitting)
At Stake – District champion in each division advances to the State Tournaments running July 10-14 at Okeechobee.
2014 Brooksville Angels (ages 9-10)
NO. NAME POSITIONS
00 Sy Crowley* C/OF
5 Aryn O’Berry* C/OF
7 Hannah Lynch 2B/OF
10 Parker Garman OF/2B
11 Brianna Mobley 1B/RF
13 Olivia Townsend P/OF
17 Solaris Genberg* 3B
18 Lauren Sullivan* SS/OF
20 Jadyn Wright* P/SS
22 Kyla Flood LF/1B
44 Faith Holland RF/2B
99 Bailey Jones* 1B/SS
* Denotes returning Angels or Darlings All-Stars.
Head Coach – Billy Jones
Assistant Coach – Richie Sullivan
Assistant Coach – Adam Wright
2014 Brooksville Ponytails (ages 11-12)
NO. NAME POSITIONS
00 Arianna Calhoun* SS
4 Rindy Kline LF
7 Kristen Tipton LF
8 Hannah Breedlove 1B
9 Armariyah Burns CF
10 Tajohnique ThompsonRF
13 Alyssa Forte* 3B
14 Carolann Graham 2B
18 Madison Zavrel RF
30 Odaesha Richardson CF
33 Kaitlynn Johnson* P
44 Ly’Nia Fields* C
* Denotes returning Angels or Ponytails All-Star.
Head Coach – Tony Graham
Assistant Coach – Deanna Graham
Assistant Coach – Nique Mayhew
2014 Brooksville Belles (ages 13-15)
NO. NAME POSITIONS
00 Autumn Perry* OF
2 Erica Siri OF/2B
3 Irene N. Hoffman 3B/C
7 Brittany Dennison OF
8 Kelsey Elliott C/OF
9 Nakayla Roberts* SS/1B
11 Jane’a Mobley* 1B/P
13 Breanna McAlpine OF
14 Lacey Garman* OF/P
21 Samantha Burnette* P/C
25 Karli Kimbrough P/2B
99 Jessica Flaherty* OF
* Denotes returning Ponytails or Belles All-Star.
Head Coach – Sharon Hoffman
Assistant Coach – Alan Garman
Assistant Coach – Ray Perry