BROOKSVILLE- Reaching the state semifinals for any Hernando High School team is a mountain that many have tried, but failed in being able to climb.
This 2019 version of the Leopards were able to make that accomplishment turn into a reality, as Hernando reached the Class 5A state semifinals against Coral Springs Charter. The Leopards ended up losing 6-1 in the school’s first appearance in the final four.
Despite the loss to Coral Springs Charter, Hernando has set the bar even higher for future clubs as the Leopards now have a region championship to their name.
Hernando ended up losing in the state semifinals against a Coral Springs Charter team that eventually became the Class 5A state champions when they defeated Marianna 7-2 in the state final. The Panthers only lost one game all season and their dominance throughout the state of Florida cannot be denied.
This Hernando team will be remembered for perseverance towards the end of the season, as the Leopards were stunned at Tom Varn Park in the Class 5A, District 7 championship game when Cypress Creek upended the hometown club 7-5. It looked to be an epic collapse of sorts, as Hernando seemed to be in full control before giving up the lead late.
Instead of bowing out early in the postseason, the Leopards went on the road to Orlando to face Bishop Moore and knocked off the Hornets 4-0. It set up a rematch against Cypress Creek in the region semifinals and Hernando was able to narrowly come away with an 8-7 victory. It ended up being another road victory when Hernando headed north to defeat Santa Fe 1-0 that helped the dream of reaching states become a reality.
Another great season from pitcher Ali Shenefield helped Hernando’s cause all year long and the senior will be sorely missed pitching on the mound. The Leopards’ right-hander boasted an earned run average of 0.92 and her record is 25-4 with 26 complete games she pitched in. She also helped herself at the plate and had a batting average of .467 with 43 hits and two home runs.
It was quite the season to remember for Hernando softball and for a Leopards’ program that has come so close year in and year out towards reaching states, they finally were able to make the trip to Dodgertown.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.