Juco softball | State College of Florida riding seven-game win streak, off to 8-2 start

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 15, 2014 

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- State College of Florida's softball team is off to a fast start to the 2014 season.

The Manatees are 8-2 and possess a seven-game winning streak.

That's quite a feat considering they play doubleheaders every time they hit the diamond.

According to head coach Meredith Headings, the success is due to a balanced offense mixed with some stellar pitching.

"We have the most girls that are capable of going yard that we've had in awhile, so there's about six or seven girls in a row that have home run potential," said Headings, who is in her seventh season at the helm.

SCF had a trying year last spring when star pitcher Paige Mathews got injured. Eventually, the Manatees navigated their way to the state tournament with the emergence of Manatee High alum Taylor O'Quinn.

But SCF was out early, eliminated after just two state games.

So the task heading into this season was the same as always: win the state tournament and get the Manatees their first national championship in any sport.

To get there, it's all about how the Manatees fare in Suncoast Conference play. So before the season started, Headings decided to use the first 20 games to platoon players in different spots to come up with her best lineup once conference action starts in mid-March.

"We have such depth this year that I think it's going to be really important to play with those first 20 games," Headings said.

Among that depth, the Manatees boast a pitching staff that has baffled hitters thus far.

SCF hurlers have allowed two or fewer hits in six of the seven victories in the current winning streak.

And leading that charge is O'Quinn, a seasoned sophomore and ace of the staff who threw a one-hitter against Palm Beach State in the team's most recent outing, a 10-0 victory.

"Our team meshes very well this year," O'Quinn said. "And we've got a lot of good talent. We're going far this year, we have a good feeling."

Kat Penn, the club's sophomore catcher, has fixed some holes in her swing, Headings said.

Plus, Penn is getting protection in the middle of the lineup from shortstop Crystal Cyr, who was suffered a season-ending broken foot injury midway through the 2013 season. At the time, Cyr was hitting .420 with pop.

So far, Cyr has a five-RBI effort where she launched a home run in a 14-0 victory over USC Salkehatchie last week.

"She's back and stronger than ever," Headings said of Cyr. "She's an animal. That girl is a force to be reckoned with."

But the solid offense is lost without dominating pitching, and the relationship between Penn and O'Quinn is uncanny.

The two click so well that it's as if Penn doesn't have to call any pitches for O'Quinn to hit her glove.

"I could just sit there and move and not give her a sign, and she would throw it," Penn said. "Because that's how in sync we are."

This year's edition of SCF also features three members of the 2013 Lakewood Ranch High softball team, which advanced to state, in infielders Jenn Trotter and Amber Wimmer and outfielder Shea Fisher.

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