Softball favorites will meet Friday
By Rick Pedone
The Orange Belt Conference softball championship will be decided over the next two weeks as the conference’s three top teams will meet.
Two of those favorites, Harmony (7-0) and St. Cloud (6-0), will get together Friday at 7 p.m. at Harmony.
Harmony is the defending OBC champ.
Friday’s game not only features two teams who can win the conference, but squads that are legitimate Class 7A state tournament contenders.
The third OBC contender, Osceola (4-0), will host St. Cloud Tuesday.
Harmony and St. Cloud entered the season with high expectations and have easily met them so far.
The Lady Longhorns have one of the most talented pitching staffs in the state with Aleshia Ocasio and Lily Mann, both University of Florida recruits.
St. Cloud has a young group of standouts with pitchers Lindsay Markham, Skylar Whobrey and Paige Shantz all capable of shutting down opponents’ lineups.
Markham struck out 13 and Sara Crawford had the game-winning RBI in the Lady Bulldogs’ 1-0, 10-inning victory over Orlando Boone Tuesday.
Harmony’s Ocasio, who led the Longhorns to the state tournament last year, already has thrown a no-hitter against Apopka, striking out 17, during a 3-0 win.
Ocasio also has been ripping the ball at a .647 clip and had 15 RBIs through six games. Molly Baker was hitting .600 through the team’s first six games.
Harmony pounded Lake Nona, 12-4, Tuesday to improve its 7A-5 district record to 4-0.
St. Cloud freshman Kayla Jensen has been torrid at the plate early in the season, hitting .733 through the team’s first five games.
The teams will play again March 7 at St. Cloud.
Osceola, which saw its first five games postponed by rain, is making up for lost time by picking up four wins in five days, not counting a scheduled game Wednesday against Poinciana.
The Kowgirls, who swept two from Dr. Phillips Friday, will host Gateway at 7 p.m. today in a 7A-5 contest.
OHS then takes a break before its game with St. Cloud Tuesday. OHS hosts Harmony March 11.
The games between Harmony, Osceola and St. Cloud also count in the 7A-5 district standings and are important because the top-seeded team receives a tournament bye.
Only two teams will advance to the regionals from 7A-5, which also includes Lake Nona, Liberty, Gateway and Celebration.