BROOKSVILLE- No matter how many times you look at things and how they may shake up in Class 5A, District 7, many come back to the same potential scenario occurring: Hernando and Nature Coast meeting in the district championship.
Though that may be counting the eggs before they hatch, the Leopards and Sharks have been the top two teams in 5A-7 and all roads seem to be leading towards a third matchup between the two clubs come district championship time.
Hernando made sure to start off the 5A-7 district tournament with a bang, as the Leopards routed Hudson Fivay by a score of 18-0. Nature Coast on the other hand wasn’t too shabby themselves when they blew by New Port Richey Ridgewood 15-0 in the Rams’ final ever softball game as a high school softball program.
Though many label Hernando and Nature Coast a rivalry, the Leopards for the most part remained in full control of the series between the two clubs this season. The Leopards barely got by the Sharks 1-0 in the first go around, but soundly defeated their adversaries 11-2. Hernando’s recent dominance in the series dates back to last season, as the Leopards won three out of the four meetings between the clubs. One of those wins was an 8-4 region semifinal victory that sent Hernando to the region final.
Fast forward to this season and the Leopards have won five straight and are aiming for a potential sixth. Both squads are now seemingly on a crash course for an all Hernando County final and each team features some of the best hitting and pitching around.
Hernando’s power at the plate can not be denied, with the Leopards recording 19 home runs as a team. Senior Janea Mobley (36 runs batted in) and sophomore Taliyah Dowdell (20 runs batted in) are tied for the team lead with four home runs apiece. The Leopards’ pitching has been nearly just as effective as the bats at the plate, with junior Ali Shenefield boasting a record of 20-9, earned run average of 1.59 and has struck out 205 batters.
On the Nature Coast spectrum of things, the Sharks may not have quite the power at the plate that the Leopards pose but have some solid hitters of their own. The Sharks are led by the bats of senior Chayse Skinner, who is currently batting a team-high .473, and Alanis Berrios’ .425 average is second for players who have played 22 or more games. Nature Coast doesn’t have one dominant pitcher, but uses a couple in rotation and is led by Alyssa Kelly (13-4, 2.97 ERA), with Berrios and Skinner both stepping into pitch when needed.
It should be an interesting Class 5A, District 7 tournament but most eyes will be looking at Hernando and Nature Coast meeting for the second consecutive season in the district championship.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.