East Lake softball rife with young talent, potential
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsEAST LAKE - After a couple recent years as the hunted — a team everyone was gunning for night in and night out — East Lake Coach Mike Estes has no problem with some of that attention shifting to other programs in the early part of 2013.
Published: February 28, 2013
Published: February 28, 2013
The Eagles made back-to-back final four runs in 2010 and 2011, so it's certainly not that previous teams tended to shrink in the spotlight. It's also not that he doesn't feel this year's Eagles are capable of making another big run come postseason time.
But with a relatively young roster, Estes said these Eagles need to earn the respect that's been cultivated by the success of previous East Lake teams.
Through 11 games in 2013, the youthful team has largely been answering that challenge.
"Realistically I guess we're about where I thought we would be," Estes said. "But we're still young."
East Lake has one of the smallest senior classes, just three players, in Estes' time as head coach and carries nine freshmen on the roster.
"I had a little talk with [the seniors] at the beginning of the year, asking them to remember back to when they were freshmen and the seniors that they had," Estes said about Emma Hvozdovich, Nicole Szelest and Audrey Gangloff. "I'm proud of those kids for how they've responded and taken it up."
"We get along and we know what we have to do," Szelest said . "I'm the only one in the infield [first base] so I lead them. Emma's in the outfield [left field] and she leads them, and since Audrey has her injury now she's keeping it up in the dugout."
The current mixture seems to be working out nicely, especially on the offensive end. Entering this week, the Eagles were averaging over 10 runs scored per game and have outscored their opponents by a total of 111-49.
"I really don't think there's one weak spot in our lineup," said Szelest. "We're all, one through nine, strong hitters and we know what to do."
East Lake is hitting a combined .405. Five players have combined to hit six home runs, and the Eagles average nearly three doubles a night.
"We've got five or six kids who can absolutely smack the ball over the fence and the other girls are base-hit hitters and that's what we need," Hvozdovich said.
Directly related to the frequent scoring outbursts is the lessened pressure placed on the shoulders of pitcher Gabby Orito.
"When I go out on the mound and we're hitting and scoring runs it just makes the game that much easier," she said, adding that her comfort level continues to increase with her improved location and curveball.
Orito's been doing as much as anyone else at the plate. Her .577 average leads the team, along with her two home runs.
"I really didn't want to put her in the lineup due to taking a chance on an injury, but I can't keep her out of it," Estes said.
The biggest challenge for East Lake, Estes said, is to prevent the mental errors that can end up causing major problems.
"If the youth on our team just keep getting better and better we'll be solid," he said. "It's an old cliché, but I just want to make sure we're good by the time we get to the postseason."
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