Area softball preview

The high school softball season in Florida is underway, and several of the top players — and teams — in the state reside right here in our coverage area. From Land O’ Lakes to Steinbrenner, there’s no shortage of prep softball talent.

Academy at the Lakes’ Alexis Kilfoyl
(File)

Some players to watch, as the season progresses:

 

  • Pitcher Alexis Kilfoyl, sophomore, Academy at the Lakes: Just a few weeks into the 2017 season, the 6-foot-1 sophomore ace and University of Alabama commit is already living up to the national hype she received throughout the preseason. Kilfoyl, a varsity standout since seventh grade, has won her first five starts, tallying a 0.50 ERA and 50 strikeouts through 28 innings. Her presence is also being felt at the plate, with a .471 average and a team-leading three home runs. Kilfoyl was selected in January to join the 2017 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Training Team, along with just 23 other athletes nationwide. She is known for her ability as a drop-ball pitcher.
  • Infielder/Outfielder Isabella Huff, junior, Sunlake High: A transfer from Bishop McLaughlin, the versatile fielder is on a tear this season for the Seahawks, batting a whopping .625, with two home runs, a triple and seven RBIs, through five games. It’s not a surprise, considering Huff had a breakout season in 2016, batting .441, with four home runs, six triples and 18 RBIs. Huff is also a threat on the base paths (nine steals in 2016). She was a 2016 Miracle Sports All-State Class 3A Honorable Mention.
  • Pitcher Callie Turner, sophomore, Land O’ Lakes High: This season, Turner has been tasked with assuming the ace pitcher role vacated by Shannon Saile, now at Florida International University. Through five appearances, Turner has handled the challenge swimmingly, compiling a 0.68 ERA and 68 strikeouts through 31 innings. A University of Tennessee commit, Turner is quickly establishing herself as one the region’s top pitchers. As a freshman in 2016, Turner won five games, netting a 0.46 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 46 innings.
  • Pitcher Hailee DeCicco, junior, Gaither High: The 5-foot-10 right-hander is picking up precisely where she left off in 2016. Through two starts, DeCicco has a 0.00 ERA and 20 strikeouts through 12 innings. Last season, DeCicco was one of the most unhittable pitchers in Hillsborough County, compiling a 0.91 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 100.1 innings. In 2016, she was a Hillsborough County Western Conference American Division First-Team selection and a 2016 Miracle Softball All-state Class 7A Second-Team selection.
  • Shortstop/Catcher Emma Frost, senior, Carrollwood Day School: Perhaps the most consistent hitter in our coverage area, Frost is looking to put together one of the more impressive four-year prep careers in recent memory. An immediate impact player since her freshman year, Frost has eye-popping career numbers in several categories, including batting average (.664), triples (21), doubles (24), hits (103), runs (92) and stolen bases (51). Through four games this season, Frost has already slugged two homers and is batting .615. A Florida International University signee, Frost is lauded by coaches for her all-around athleticism and deep understanding of the game.

Other key players:
Catcher Kameron Aitken, senior, Wiregrass Ranch
P/INF Emalee Jansen, senior, Steinbrenner
INF Tia Williams, junior, Land O’Lakes
3B Ashley Nickisher, sophomore, Wesley Chapel
P/SS Jordyn Kadlub, sophomore, Pasco High

Three teams to keep an eye on:

Land O’ Lakes High’s varsity softball team looks to return to the state tournament in 2017.
(Courtesy of Edwin Rodriguez)

Land O’ Lakes High: Despite graduating three starters — including former dominant ace Shannon Saile — the Gators, coached by Mitch Wilkins, are still primed as a regional powerhouse. Plenty of skill and depth remain from last year’s 27-win team that advanced to the Class 6A state semifinals. A trio of juniors — Tia Williams, Ashley Smith, Brianna Lindner — expect to offer plenty of support for sophomore ace Callie Turner. Meanwhile, opponents will have to contend with several heady baserunners, like sophomore Shelby Westbrook and senior Jessie McCallister. The Gators are currently 5-1.

Academy at the Lakes: Armed with one of the nation’s elite pitchers in Alexis Kilfoyl, the Wildcats also add a bevy of power-hitting youngsters in eighth-graders Kendra Falby, Brooke Blankenship and Devyne Davis, each of which are already making an immediate impact for the 6-0 Wildcats. It doesn’t hurt, either, to have an experienced Division I coach anchoring the program. In the offseason, the Wildcats hired Diane Stephenson to oversee the team’s move to Class 3A. Stephenson served as the head softball coach at Indiana University from 1987 to 2002. She was also an assistant softball coach at both the University of Iowa (2008-2010) and Purdue University (2010-2013). More recently, Stephenson was the head softball coach at Division II Saint Joseph’s College (2014-2015) in Renssalaer, Indiana.

Steinbrenner High: Already off to a blistering 6-0 start, the Warriors’ winning ways don’t appear to be going away anytime soon, especially under third-year coach Brenda Leach. In addition to having one of Hillsborough County’s top pitchers in Emalee Jansen (a University of Tampa signee), the Warriors return five .300 hitters from the 2016 squad. Also a solid team defensively, the Warriors figure to win several close games. Over the last two seasons, Steinbrenner has 40-13 combined record.

Published March 8, 2017

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