St. Cloud hurler and hitter led Bulldogs to OBC championship
Player of the Year: Alyssa O’Donnell (SCHS, Sr.)
All-County team: St. Cloud: Ariana Manzanares, Taylor McFann, Amy McNabb, Lindsey Burns, Leah Gonzalez. Osceola: Shelby Jones, Audra Thompson, Rylee Andrews, Natalia Ferrer, Maria Nunez. Harmony: Taylor Barrett, Lesleigh Shelton. Liberty: Sydney Marrero, Serena Ramos, Beverly Rehfeldt, Emmalee Stephens.
St. Cloud’s softball season had a tough ending, with losses in the district championship game and regional quarterfinals. But the Bulldogs had plenty of highlights before that — 19 wins, including some over top-notch opponents, and an Orange Belt Conference championship.
During the best of it, Alyssa O’Donnell was usually doing something to contribute to a win.
She was the pitcher, like she’d been for the past two seasons in St. Cloud. At the plate, she was the bat that Coach Ray Whobrey could move around the lineup — leadoff, cleanup, farther down to produce in an RBI spot — based on matchups.
At the plate she hit .333 and had an on-base percentage of .506 (she led the team with 19 walks).
In the pitching circle she did things to keep the Bulldogs in every start she made — all of the team’s toughest games — going 13-7 with 147 strikeouts in 142 innings. Opponents hit .197 off her. Those numbers add up to a nod as Osceola News-Gazette Softball Player of the Year.
“She’ll be the one we miss next year,” Whobrey said. “Her pitching, her play, her leadership.”
O’Donnell has signed with Florida Southwestern State College in Fort Myers, and said her senior season performance, along with outings she’d had thus far this summer with the Osceola Overdrive Under-18 team, working with longtime area coach Keith Pereira, has her going into the college game with confidence.
“I feel like I was always hitting my spots,” said O’Donnell, who says she favors a curveball she can make break two ways (in and out) to make it almost like two different pitches. “We worked hard all season to keep our streak going.”
She refers to St. Cloud’s string of district championships that ended at four when Windermere upset the Bulldogs, 4-1, in the District 8A-10 championship that was delayed a night by hard rain. The season, and her nearly four-year Bulldog varsity career, ended at the hands of Winter Springs, who capped an undefeated season by winning the Class 8A state title. But O’Donnell said she doesn’t let those games define the season or her career.
“Against Windermere, we were expecting a different pitcher than who we got,” she said. “Winter Springs was a top-notch team that showed everyone how high the level is that top teams play at, and I think we all learned something from that. But it’s been a real honor playing with our players and coaches at St. Cloud. I wouldn’t want to have played anywhere else, and I think I’m part of a good legacy left over these last few years.”