High school softball is just starting up, but there is already a lot to keep an eye out for.
They’ve been waiting all off-season for this moment — the arrival of softball season. For Winter Park-area softball players, the camaraderie, the chants from the dugout and the desire to just get out and play ball are undeniable. Although teams are already a few games in to the new season, here are a few things to watch out for as our local teams take to the field.
1. Pitcher Riley Oakes looks to take Bishop Moore to the next level
Like many teams at the high-school level, the Hornets face the task this year of dealing with a lot of turnover.
Seven seniors from last year’s playoff squad are now gone — five of which were starters — but luckily, the Hornets have their key core back for this season.
First off is junior pitcher Riley Oakes, who has become an absolute force of reckoning on the mound.
“She’s a dominating pitcher,” said Hornets’ head coach David Occhialini.
And dominating may be an understatement. In her two years as a starting pitcher, Oakes is 42-10.
So far this season, she has racked up a 4-0 record with an ERA of 2.56 to go along with a whopping 47 strike outs.
Although Oakes has stepped forward as a leader for the Hornets, Occhialini said he hopes to further round out his team on different levels — particularly in hitting.
“We lost a lot of people, and the team is young — so our objective has been to develop those younger players,” Occhialini said. “Two seniors (who) graduated last year, and one of my outfielders who just decided she wasn’t going to play this year were the key to the hitting last year. So replacing hitting and developing a consistent outfield have been the two key goals.”
2. Winter Park looks to make it to back-to-back playoffs
Last season was a breakout for the Wildcats, who finished with a 18-7 (7-3) record and made a playoff appearance for the first time since 2015.
So far this season, the Wildcats have struggled a bit coming out of the gate — starting 1-3 (0-1) — but there is still plenty of time to right the ship.
On the mound for the Wildcats is the trio of Lauren Staudt, Bridget Gorman and Karolyn Walker. Thus far, Staudt has pitched the most innings (12) for coach Bob Eckrich — going 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA. She currently leads the team in strikeouts with seven.
Despite struggles offensively — the Wildcats are being outscored by a 17 to 34 margin — there are seven players batting at least .308.
Walker, who also swings a heavy bat for the Wildcats, leads the team through four-games with an impressive .625 batting average on 8-for-10 hitting — she’s also been responsible for two RBI.
Alongside Walker in the scoring department is Alyssa Lynch, whose .375 average has helped haul in four RBI. Lynch and Walker makeup just more than 35% of the Wildcats’ current run total.
If the Wildcats want to make a run back to states, they will need to keep up the strong pitching while shoring up their game at the plate.
3. Trinity Prep puts it all together
Of all the teams in the area, the Saints may be the most complete team.
With a 4-0 record early in the season, the Saints are clicking are literally every cylinder — from hitting, to pitching, to stealing bases like madwomen.
Through just four games the Saints have racked up 15 stolen bases — with sophomore captain Callie Wells leading the pack with five overall. Wells also has been a force on the offensive side of the ball as well, as she has gone for .571 on 8-of-14 hitting.
The big hitter for the Saints comes in the form of freshman Kayla Alexander — who matches Wells’ .571 on 8-for-14 hitting, but has added a team-high nine RBI and a home run.
Alongside other offensive powers such as freshman Francesca Fulmer (.364, four hits, three RBI) and senior Hannah Cavanaugh (.375, three hits, four RBI), the Saints have outscored opponents in a brutal 39-9 scoreline.
Cavanaugh also has been the dominant force on the mound for the Saints. During her three appearances, she has picked up two wins. Through her 17 innings of work, Cavanaugh has given up only three runs and eight hits, while striking out 28 and walking six.
So far, the well-rounded mix of softball played by these girls has helped land them in a good spot early — which is a definite improvement over last season. If they can keep up the work, expect the Saints to make a splash in the district and beyond.