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Sarasota Thursday, May 16, 2019 3 months ago

Spring's under-appreciated athletes get a spotlight

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Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

Spring feels like the shortest sports season.

It isn’t. It started back in February. But it feels short, perhaps because it inches toward the end of the school year, not the next sports season. Whatever the reason, the reality is the year is almost finished. Only baseball and softball are still going, and the area has no local softball teams remaining in the playoffs. The Sarasota and Cardinal Mooney high school baseball teams, as of May 15, are the area’s last shot at a team title.

That means it is time for the final entry in this year’s “under-appreciated athletes” series. Like in the fall and winter editions, this column will not be exhaustive. There are a lot of great athletes in Sarasota. The ones below just happened to do stuff I think is cool, or have seasons that caught my eye.  

For example, Riverview High junior track and field athlete Alexa Tarohocker. She did not qualify for the state meet in the 4A girls high jump. She did in the triple jump, and finished 22nd (34 feet, 4.25 inches), but the high jump was her best event all season. She won the Rams’ district meet by jumping 5 feet, 3.75 inches April 13 at Manatee High, her personal record. An uncharacteristic performance at the regional meet left her out of the state competition, but her district meet height would have tied for fifth place at states. With another chance next year, Tarohocker should qualify for states, and if she can raise her PR a few inches? A top-three finish is not out of the question.

Sarasota High softball sophomore Lizzy Small was the team’s ace pitcher. Even though the team struggled, going 7-13 in its first season under coach Nina Singleton, Small was a steadying presence. She helped the Sailors beat Braden River High — a team that as of May 14 is in the Class 7A regional semifinals (Sweet 16) — twice, including a 4-0 shutout Feb. 23. Small also ended the team’s regular season with an 8-0 shutout, with seven strikeouts, of North Port High on April 25. With two years of high school remaining, Small has a chance to become a dominant pitcher for the Sailors as the program looks ahead.

Rams softball senior Devyn Flaherty hit for a .481 average, good for 19th in Class 4A, with seven doubles and three home runs. Her performance at the plate led the Rams to a 15-10 record. Even though the Rams did not advance out of the district tournament, it was their best season since 2014, and they did it with a less-than-full roster. Flaherty, a Florida State commit, will pass the torch to her sister, freshman McKenna Flaherty, next season.

Offense comes up when discussing the Cardinal Mooney lacrosse team. It’s inevitable when a team has as much talent as the Cougars had this season. But, as coach Derek Wagner has noted, defense is just as crucial. The team rode both facets of the game to the regional final for the second-consecutive season. Even though they lost a painful 14-13 overtime road game to Jupiter High, the Cougars' defense deserves credit for getting them there. Especially junior Michael Bavaro, sophomore Ross Windom, freshman Max Beach, sophomore Will Lambert and sophomore Anthony Fayette, plus defensive midfielders Connor Rockwell, a junior, and Sam Linares and Michael Coppola, both seniors, alongside senior goaltender Max Petrucelli. I usually flaunt stats in these columns, but no numbers can convey the importance of a strong defense. Just know that it's nearly impossible to win without one. Mooney’s was not only strong but young, and that bodes well for next season.

Oh, and Booker High sophomore pitcher Brycen Torres threw a no-hitter April 23 against Gibbs High in a 10-0 win. That one speaks for itself.

Summer, that dreaded sports dead zone, will soon be upon us. We’ll get through it together. Hopefully you can use the memories of these and other athletic feats from 2018-2019 to keep you satisfied until August. 

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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