By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun staff writer
With the regular season coming to a close for prep softball teams throughout Hernando County, many of the teams have real aspirations towards winning a district championship and clinching state postseason berths. Hernando, Nature Coast and Springstead have all been steady contenders in their respective districts, with Central and Weeki Wachee remaining competitive against district opponents. As district tournaments taking place next week, we take a closer look at each district with projections on who’ll come out on top.
Class 6A, District 6 (Springstead, Weeki Wachee, Crystal River, Dunnellon, Citrus, Lecanto) at Springstead High School: One of the state’s most competitive districts will heat up once tournament play begins, as both Springstead and Dunnellon enter the tourney ranked amongst the top 10 teams in Class 6A. The Eagles went 2-0 against Tigers and out-scored them by a combined 19-6. Springstead is the favorite to come away as the district champion, with Dunnellon being the runner-up. Weeki Wachee went 2-8 in district play and despite being competitive, will have a tough time getting past the opening round. Springstead has no shortage of talent to help potentially bring the Eagles back to the Class 6A playoffs and it all starts on the mound, with ace Kayla Cruz. The senior has struck out 96 batters, boasts an earned run average of 1.24 and has a record of 12-2 on the season. The batting lineup is one of the most feared around, which includes the presence of catcher Paige Pfent, who has hit seven home runs this season.
Class 5A, District 7 (Central, Hernando, Nature Coast, Cypress Creek, Gulf, Hudson, Fivay, Ridgewood) hosted by Hernando High School at Tom Varn Park: This district has primarily been a two-horse race between budding Hernando County rivals Hernando and Nature Coast. The initial meeting between the Leopards and Sharks was a close call, with the former coming away with a 1-0 victory. In the second meeting between the two, Hernando was able to runaway with an 11-2 win. Wesley Chapel Cypress Creek has been a dark horse team, as the Wolves played surprisingly well for a first-year varsity team. The Wolves played both the Leopards and Sharks tough and could prove to be a factor as the No. 3 seed. Hernando’s Ali Shenefield (207 strikeouts) has been the best pitcher in the district, with a record of 16-3 and an earned run average of 1.01. Leopards’ junior Madyson Lamp has provided power at the plate, belting four home runs this season. The Sharks’ Alanis Berrios leads the team with 22 runs batted in and must have a big tournament if Nature Coast looks to return to the playoffs. Nature Coast sophomore Alyssa Kelly is the Sharks’ ace on the mound, as the pitcher is 11-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 55 strikeouts this season.