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North softball looks to tourney

April 24, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

After eight seniors graduated from a team that went to states last season, it would stand to reason that this season would be a rebuilding year for the North Fort Myers High School softball team.

However, this is North, and softball doesn't rebuild, it reloads, and the seven freshmen who have come in have plenty of ability and contributed the team's success.

The results was a 20-5 regular season that ended this past week and thoughts of playing deep into May in the tournament are once again alive on campus.

District plait was scheduled to begin Monday.

It seems like no matter what Jeff Minor does, it all comes out roses.

"The freshmen have started to pick their games up, sneak hits in and laying some bunts down so our older girls can get their swings," Minor said. "The older players have taken the younger ones under their wing, and because of our success, the younger kids feed off the older ones and make them play at a higher level."

Playing against a strong program like Charlotte gave everyone an idea of where the Red Knights are. Last week, North took an early 5-0 lead and cruised to a 6-3 win to avenge a pre-season defeat to the Tarpons.

Senior Sajarie Jones, one of the vets, scored twice and continued her tremendous season where she has hit .422, scored 42 runs to lead the team and has stolen 22 bases without being caught.

"We knew we had to step up our game and on senior night they were fired up. The freshmen play with a lot of heart and work as a unit," Jones said. "They know what we did last year and they play to the standards we have for them. It's nice to have people who look up to you and I take great pride in that."

Usually, it's senior Natavia Ellis who brings her home. Ellis has batted .472 and driven in 31 runs and scored 31 more.

Junior Emma Johnson has usually been in the circle, and has been excellent, with a 12-3 record and 91 strikeouts in 83 innings. Freshman Sydney Morris has gone 7-2 as a No. 2 starter.

Johnson struggled with control against Charlotte but got the big outs when she needed them.

"I know my defense is back there supporting me and I have the next pitch to focus on," Johnson said. "We have a lot of freshmen who start and we haven't played together a lot, but they look to me as a starter, so that's my focus."

Overall, the team has averaged more than eight runs a game while batting .325 and the freshmen have helped. Alexis Morris, Auyenia Graham, Kirsten Gnagey and Taylor Rosciti have all made the starting lineup and provided quality at-bats and defense at the bottom of the lineup.

It has meant the Red Knights can get an upper hand on a team early and build the pressure on them.

"Every game is a learning experience for our young players and older ones. A few times this year we got that early lead and built on it. We had to keep the pressure on Charlotte," Minor said.



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