Lakewood Ranch, Braden River and ODA stars gave great performances.
The Lakewood Ranch High softball players will have a lifetime of memories of a state championship game that never happened.
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s 2020 spring season has been wiped out by COVID-19. The state's high school sports' governing body made the decision April 20.
Even though the spring season was short, many East County high school athletes already had produced performances that left a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented athletes from making postseason runs, and from celebrating their accomplishments with their teammates and coaches.
That includes the Mustang softball players, who were drawing attention on a national level.
Lakewood Ranch High played just eight softball games, but made them count, going 8-0 while scoring 84 runs and allowing just four runs.
The Mustangs were ranked No. 1 in the nation in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings, which are voted on by a group of national writers.
Mustangs senior first baseman Avery Goelz finished with a .591 batting average, three home runs and 13 RBIs. Goelz, a University of Florida signee, was named one of MaxPreps’ top-100 senior athletes in all sports for her effort.
"I'm judgmental of myself and my own performances," Goelz said. "I always think I could have done better in one at-bat or had more focus the whole game. I'm honored to be on the list, but I think there are a lot of girls who deserved it just as much, including some of my own teammates. Emma Anthony (senior infielder) for example, I thought she was having an amazing season."
Anthony, an East Carolina University signee, led the team with four home runs. Senior pitcher Peytan Kinney, a University of Connecticut signee, made three starts while allowing no earned runs. The pitching staff as a whole had a 0.30 ERA.
But the Mustang softball players weren't alone when it came to losing an opportunity to post impressive accomplishments.
The Braden River High softball seemed to be headed toward an impressive season as it went 7-2. Senior Jade Moy, a Purdue signee, led the Pirates with a .938 on-base percentage. Moy and her four fellow seniors were surprised at their homes by head coach Melissa Dowling and the rest of the Braden River coaching staff April 23 in recognition of their hard work.
On the baseball diamond, Lakewood Ranch started slower than usual as a team, going 4-3, but senior infielder Zack Weston was off to a faster start. Weston hit .600 in those first seven games. That average was tied for 13th-best in Florida, in all classification levels.
""I was seeing the ball well," Weston said. "It helps to be sandwiched between a bunch of great hitters like (senior) Taylor Steier and (junior) John Schroeder. You are going to get a bunch of good pitches to hit, a lot of fastballs. I was just trying not to do too much and fortunately I caught a lot of barrels.""
At Braden River, where the Pirates started 6-2 under first-year coach Zack Solly, senior pitcher Grant Trautweiler held a 2.25 ERA through four starts and junior catcher/third baseman Brady Jernigan led the team with four extra-base hits, all doubles, while hitting .476.
At The Out-of-Door Academy, sophomore boys track and field runner Tristan McWilliam was primed for another big season. McWilliam set school records in the 1,600-meter run (4:27.75) and the 3,200-meter run (9:46.95) at the state championship meet in Jacksonville as a freshman. He was still warming up when the 2020 season was cut short, but McWilliam did finished second in the 1,600 (4:43.92) at the Larry Memorial Invitational, one of the biggest early-season meets, at Sarasota High in February.
Lakewood Ranch boys javelin senior Parker Venuto set a school record in the event in February at the George M. Steinbrenner Invitational, another large event, in Lutz. Venuto launched his javelin 42.34 meters (138.91 feet).
The school put a renewed effort into the event in 2020. According to MileSplit data, nine of the school’s top-10 javelin throws came this year, four of them from Venuto. The girls side also set a new javelin record, with junior Gianna Hagopian launching her best throw 25.58 meters (84.0 feet) at the Larry Richardson Memorial. Not to be outdone, Mustangs junior Riley Simmons set a new girls shot put record of 11.99 meters (39.34 feet), also at the Larry Richardson Memorial.
It was shaping up to be a banner year for Braden River track and field. Boys junior sprinter Josh Thomas, who is also a wide receiver on the football team, set a school record in the 100-meter dash, hitting the finish line in 10.87 seconds at the Lakewood Ranch Relays in February.
Sophomore girls runner Grace Marston set school records in both the 800-meter (2:17.62) and 1,600-meter runs (5:15.56), and senior Rose-Ferla Philogene set school records in the triple jump (11.32 meters; 37.14 feet) and long jump (5.74 meters; 18.83 feet).
On the lacrosse field, Lakewood Ranch girls senior Alyssa Bradford, who is signed with Young Harris College (Georgia), led the Mustangs with 30 goals in 10 games. The Mustangs finished the year 8-2 and were primed for their best season since the program was created in 2018.
Then COVID-19 ended the season.