Springstead, Hernando High, Sunlake and Wesley Chapel tested the waters in the Preseason Softball Classic last week. The tournament was hosted by rivals Hernando High and Springstead. Hernando-Sunlake, Springstead -Wesley Chapel bouts took place on Feb. 14. The next day, Hernando took on Wesley Chapel and Springstead faced Sunlake.
Hernando and Springstead each had a successful 2018 season (Hernando went 25-4 while Springstead went 24-5). Both teams had a strong showing in the postseason. Hernando was the Class 5A District 7 champs. They nearly reached the state tournament but were defeated by Keystone Heights in the Class 5A Region 2 final. Springstead lost 3-2 to Crystal River in the region semifinal.
Springstead Coach Craig Swartout has been the head coach for the Lady Eagles for twenty years. This year with a smaller roster, he has some challenges to overcome. The team will have to adjust to the gaps left by powerhouse players Paige Pfent and Kayla Cruz who graduated last year.
“This gives us good opportunity to try different players at different positions and gives me an opportunity to evaluate a little bit better,” Swartout said. “Preseason, it’s not much about winning; it’s what you can learn about your team going forward.”
After losing some key batters, Swartout feels his team has a strong defensive line up and five well-focused seniors.
“I think defensively, we will probably be just as good if not a little better,” said Swartout.
Since 2010, Kevin Bittinger has been the Lady Leopards head softball coach and this year, the focus is training those current freshmen to fill the void.
“We have some key position battles going on, and that’s not going to be sorted out- not this week, not next week, and probably not even a month from now,” Bittinger said.
As far as any changes in field or player techniques, Bittinger is confident that they got a pretty good system in place. “We’ll let the plays on the field do the talking,” Bittinger said.
Hernando plays at Fivay on Feb. 22 to begin their season and Springstead takes on Central on Feb. 23.
March 28 and April 17 are set for Springstead and Hernando’s rivalry games.