Unheralded senior Kori Peterson has earned her way at West Orange

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  • | 7:46 a.m. April 9, 2015
Unheralded senior Kori Peterson has earned her way at West Orange
Unheralded senior Kori Peterson has earned her way at West Orange
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WINTER GARDEN — Part of a six-member senior class that rivals any in the state from a talent standpoint, West Orange second baseman Kori Peterson doesn’t mind if she is perceived as the unheralded one in the bunch.

With her fellow seniors going to Division I schools such as Florida State (Sabrina Stutsman), North Carolina (Alex Paulson) and Tennessee (Kelsey Morrison), as well as a pair heading off to Daytona State College (Kendall Arcia and Amanda Nikhazy), Peterson, who signed with Warner University, said she is simply happy to be among such great company.

“It’s actually really awesome, knowing that I get to play with all these girls who are going to DI colleges and that one day I’ll be able to watch them on TV,” Peterson said. 

In just her second year on the Warriors’ varsity team, Peterson is aware of how hard she had to work and improve simply to find a place in West Orange’s star-studded lineup, and her perspective reflects as much.

“Even the girls who are (junior varsity) now, most of them would be starting on varsity (at another school),” Peterson said. “There’s a lot of competition (at West Orange). You have to work so hard every day just to prove to coach that you should be on varsity. … I like that I have to come to practice and work so hard.”

That work ethic, paired with her natural athletic ability, have helped create an admiration and respect for Peterson among teammates and coaches.

“(Peterson) is probably one of the most improved players since she came into the program as a freshman,” head coach Todd LaNeave said. “Since Day One, she’s come out and busted every day, and it’s paid off.”

LaNeave, who has coached at West Orange for five years and said this year’s senior class might be his most talented, said his senior second baseman is also invaluable to the team thanks in part to her bubbly personality.

“She gets along with everyone,” LaNeave said. “She brings the hustle and the smile out every day.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, Peterson said she became serious about softball once she moved to Florida at age 12. At a travel ball event at Disney, she remembers being struck not only by the superior level of competition on the field but also by who was in the stands to watch.

“It was weird how there were so many college coaches watching us play and knowing how a lot of these girls that I’m playing against are going to college,” Peterson said.

Thanks to her hard work, Peterson is now one of those girls who will play college ball. The spunky infielder will suit up for the Warner Royals in nearby Lake Wales and said that, although she is proud of her teammates who are going off to big-time programs, she knows the program at Warner will suit her just fine.

“I like the fact that the college I’m going to is tiny, and the fact that I’ll be closer to everyone and I’ll know more people,” Peterson said.

Of course, going off to college — while exciting — also will be a bittersweet moment for Peterson and her teammates. Peterson and Stutsman, in particular, have become close over their time at West Orange and playing for the Windermere Wildfire together, and when her friend, who she said is like a sister, heads off to Tallahassee, Peterson anticipates shedding some tears.

As for her time with the Warriors, playing for a program heavy on history and tradition, Peterson again is full of perspective.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else,” she said. “I love it here — everyone makes you feel like part of a family; it’s awesome.”


Dating back to a loss to the Apopka Blue Darters, the Warriors have ascended to the top of the Class 8A polls and won 14 consecutive games.

Part of the method to the madness to West Orange’s success, said LaNeave, has been its loose, relaxed approach to each game — an attribute he hopes his team will maintain as district tournaments and the state playoffs draw near.

“I am a strong believer that if I emulate that, that they’re going to follow,” LaNeave said. “So I try to be loose as well.”

West Orange will conclude the regular season with a road game at East Ridge on Thursday.


Following a recent victory over district opponent Evans, the Warriors and the Trojans did something a tad unusual — they had a joint practice.

Despite being district opponents, West Orange and Evans are two programs with very different goals. The Warriors are in pursuit of a state championship, while the Trojans are more focused on building a program and improving the fundamentals for each player. With games between the two programs usually being on the short side, with West Orange winning by mercy rule, 16-1, the coaches of the respective clubs decided to have the two teams practice with the Warriors guiding the Trojans through their general practice routine.

It was what proved to be a fun time and positive experience for all.

“That’s what really this sport is about,” West Orange’s Grace Spitulski said, noting how receptive the players from Evans were.

Warriors assistant coach Leslie McMillan said that, beyond the softball techniques, it was a fun opportunity for the girls to make friends at another school.

“The girls loved it,” McMillan said. “At one point, they were sitting in the infield sharing boy advice with one another — prom problems.”

Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].


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