Posted: 3:37 pm Saturday, April 23rd, 2011
By Jeff Greer
“Pitching wins” is a common theme for softball teams this time of year.
There are the usual suspects in the 2011 regional playoffs — Palm Beach Gardens, Dwyer, American Heritage — and then there are some relative neophytes. But each of the more inexperienced softball programs in this year’s regionals have the same thing those factories have: great pitching.
Wellington, Suncoast, Centennial, Lincoln Park, St. Andrew’s, Wellington Christian and King’s Academy all fit into that category.
King’s Academy (13-12-1) hasn’t been to the regional quarters since 2007. The Lions haven’t won a regional game since 2000, despite four appearances since then. They’re hoping this year will produce a different result when they play at Fort Lauderdale-Calvary Christian 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Junior ace Aubree Murphy gives King’s hope. Murphy (13-9-1) gobbled up the most innings among small-schools starters in the regular season, and her 167 regular-season strikeouts ranked in the top four among all area pitchers.
“Aubree’s playing phenomenal,” King’s Academy coach Tim Willcox said. “It’s hard to believe that, two years ago, she was thinking about quitting the game all together. But she got some encouragement and stuck with it.”
Murphy sticking with it has helped a very young King’s team. The Lions have one senior, two juniors, four sophomores, a freshman, three eighth graders and two seventh graders.
“We’ve got this little team and we fight, fight, fight,” Willcox said.
Wellington (21-6), which out of the entire group of neophytes may have the best chance at making the states, has only won once in three playoff appearances and hadn’t won a district tournament since 1989 before beating Dwyer Thursday night. The District 15-5A champions have hard-throwing righty Corrie Boggess and freshman No. 2 pitcher Remi Losey, who has already shown signs of becoming a future ace.
Suncoast’s Lindsey Harris didn’t allow a single earned run in the district tournament, pitching the Chargers to their second district title in three years. But Suncoast only has one regional win since 2003, and after that win, the Chargers lost to this year’s regional-quarterfinal opponent, Cocoa-Space Coast, in a 13-inning regional semifinal in 2009.
“My ladies are the most focused they’ve been all year long,” said Suncoast coach Mike Via said. “(Harris) has been on fire in the postseason. If you were to put out one adjective about us right now, it would be determined. We are determined.”
St. Andrew’s has only made one regionals appearance, and the Scots lost in their opener in 2009. Lincoln Park hasn’t made the regionals since 2007. Wellington Christian lost in the school’s only postseason appearance in 2008. And Centennial hasn’t won a regional playoff game since 2000, despite three appearances since then under current coach Cheryl East.
Each of those teams has been the beneficiary of fantastic pitching, and the fielders behind the aces have held up their ends of the bargain.
Now they’re on a whole new level, and they’re hoping their aces can keep the deck stacked in their favor.