Softball players provide a huge power surge in home runs this season
Friday, April 20, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Four of the most accomplished softball pitchers in recent county history graduated after last season, but so did a handful of the area's most powerful hitters.
So, what explains softball's 2012 power surge? There were 22 large-school players and 19 small-school players (41 total) with two or more home runs over the regular season, which ended last Friday. There were 27 total with at least two homers over the previous two regular seasons.
"It's kind of a perfect storm," Park Vista coach Chuck Layman said. "Maybe the pitching is down, but there's also a strong group of young players."
Layman said the freshman and sophomore classes have several powerful hitters, including Palm Beach Gardens freshman Tiffany Lower, who's hit four home runs, and American Heritage sophomore Jessie Mohl, who has three.
But the biggest numbers have come from veteran sluggers. Gardens junior Ta'Coia Williams has an area-best nine homers, while Boca Raton senior Pepper Butler smashed six and American Heritage junior Corrie Boggess led small-schools players with five.
"Some of these girls are just gifted athletes," Boca Raton coach Jeff Lantz said. "Hitters are getting better at fouling off (outside) pitches, being patient, getting deeper into the count and seeing better pitches to drive."
There's another layer to the power surge: Palm Beach Gardens, ranked first in the nation by ESPN and MaxPreps, had a historic run through the regular season and could go down as the single best team in Palm Beach County softball history.
Palm Beach Gardens (25-1) hit 30 homers as a team en route to 225 runs in 25 regular-season games. In addition to Williams and Lower, senior first baseman Taylor Schwarz (five home runs), shortstop Liz Spring (4), catcher Virginia Spring (4) and pitcher Shelby Turnier (2) all have multiple home runs.
"That lineup, one through nine, is merciless," Central coach Mike Dudeck said. "You don't get a batter off, and a bunch of them have serious power."
Maybe Layman's right. Having the best team in the country, a slight dip in pitching talent and an increase in young batting prowess all in one county certainly seems like a perfect storm.
"Whatever it is, it's fun to watch," Layman said, "unless you're a pitcher."