Leesburg, Fla. – The Lake-Sumter State College softball program is coming off of a stellar year in which the team became just the fourth in program history to record a 20+ win season, finishing fifth in the Mid-Florida Conference. Rachel Phelps and Brooke Ferguson highlight a talented sophomore class as they are both returning all-conference selections as freshman.
Head Coach, Jay Miller, who is entering his third season at the helm of the program, believes this year may be a little different than his first two. "We will be led by pitching and speed in 2018, which is a little different than in years past," said Miller. The Lakehawks lost two middle of the lineup hitters in Madison Staniloiu and Bri Bennet who combined for 11 home runs and 76 RBIs. Sophomore pitchers Jasmine McQuaig, Kaitlyn Van Buren and Erin Huffman are joined by freshmen arms Abbey Primavera, Allie Geier and Emily Murphy along with sophomore transfer, Gillian Heinritz.
Sophomores Ferguson, Phelps and Hailey Dobbs totaled 62 stolen bases between them and are joined by a freshman class that stole over 175 bases as high school seniors last year. LSSC finished ninth in the country in stolen bases in 2017, swiping 136 bags. Freshman Taylor Turner, Nini Underwood, Jenna Curtis, Megan Young, Danielle Arceneaux and Lauryn Markis are all looking to contribute as table setters on the bases. "I feel like 200 stolen bases is attainable with our speed and what we can do on the bases," Miller said. In 2017, only five schools in the country reached the 200 stolen base plateau.
Although the team direction has switched to speed and pitching, the big bats are still a part of the teams plan for success in 2018. Taylor Dotson will anchor CF and be a feature in the middle of the Lakehawks lineup and along with Phelps, will provide the pop to drive in runs. Sophomore Barbara Vega along with freshmen Mackenzie Reeves and Amanda Lopez will also be counted on to bring runners around with their bats. Miller said of the power potential, "We certainly have the capability to hit the long ball and this group of hitters should have a lot of RBI opportunities this season."
"I believe our catchers are a point of strength on our team going into the season," Miller said of his backstops. Aura Blackburn is the only returning catcher appearing in over 40 games last year. Blackburn will be joined by freshman, Lucia Esposito and Leslie Walden.
Going into the 2018 season, the Lakehawks have very high expectations. "This group is extremely talented and they are working very hard and for the right reasons. They are working for each other. They put their teammate's success above their own and I am so proud of them." The Lakehawks will open up the year at home Friday, Jan. 26 against Georgia Highlands. The double header will begin at 1:00 pm.