“One of the worst-best feelings in life is getting doused with gatorade,” Softball Coach Linda Derk said with a laugh. “You know you’re getting doused because you’re a champion, but wow it’s a sticky, gross feeling. It’s so worth it though. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Champion is just the right word for the softball team, who knocked out Orlando’s Cornerstone Charter Academy to win the first Class 3A state softball championship in Farragut history.
“Everything was a record,” Coach Derk said. “First time our team won states, player of the year (Krystina Hartley ‘21), and pitcher of the year (Brielle Benefield ‘20).”
This is a win that the softball team has been building up to for some time, with five straight playoff appearances, including four straight trips to the region final and two state semifinal berths. Leading up to the historical finish the team qualified for the postseason for the fifth straight year; were District 5 Class 3A champions for the third straight year; became Regional Champions; and ranked in the top five in State Academics, with a team average GPA of 3.4. The team’s accomplishments are made all the more impressive by how young the team is. Not only were there no seniors on the team this year, but many of the student-athletes were as young as 6th grade.
“Every position was important,” Coach Derk said. “From the every-day starters to the 6th graders, who set up the field for practice daily, practiced hard, and helped manage the dugout. Every single player was essential to the team.”
“There was just a sense of calm with this team,” Coach Derk continued. “We were so prepared and this team showed so much grit and determination you wouldn’t even know how young they are.”
“When we got to semifinals the first time we were more in awe,” outfielder Alyssa Rano ‘20 said. “This time we were more hungry. We wanted it and it showed.” Alyssa started in 8th grade on second base, and this year her sister, 6th grader Codi Rano, joined her. The Rano sisters are just one of several sets of siblings who are on the team, including the Hernandezes (Gabriella ‘21 and Alexis ‘20), the Brunos (Gabriela ‘24 and Sophia ‘22), and the Deitches (Sylvia ‘21 and Sophia ‘24). Kalynn Miner ‘22, sister of softball alum Corynn Miner ‘16 (who over a 4-year career as starting pitcher compiled an impressive 60 career wins and 953 strikeouts) is also on the team.
“It’s a family affair,” Coach Derk said. “Something that I think helped the players this year was committing to live stream each game on Facebook, so families all over the world could watch their daughters play. We have a village of support. I think that’s really important because it does take our mental awareness, preparation, and our pride to another level when you can share this all over the place with a live stream.”
The team has no plans of slowing down.
Coach Derk is planning to have a ring ceremony in September (more information will be released closer to the date). “Once the girls have that taste of success and that feeling of the Farragut community lifting them up and congratulating them, they’re going to be hungry for more,” she says. “We had a team GPA of 3.4, and we did some major community service projects, including the Stand Down for Homeless Veterans Event held at the C.W. Bill Young V.A. Medical Center and the Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center, so it’s not just about the championship medal, it’s about being a championship team all the way around. That’s most important to me and I think our kids do get it. When you have young women who commit to the process of working hard and practicing hard, anything can happen.”
2018 SOFTBALL AWARDS
MIRACLE SPORTS ALL STATE AWARDS CLASS 3A
BRIELLE BENEFIELD – PITCHER
KRYSTINA HARTLEY – INFIELD
HALEY SAYLOR – OUTFIELD
ALYSSA RANO – OUTFIELD
PITCHER OF THE YEAR – BRIELLE BENEFIELD
PLAYER OF THE YEAR – KRYSTINA HARTLEY
COACH OF THE YEAR – LINDA DERK
FLORIDA DAIRY FARMERS AWARD CLASS 3A
COACH OF THE YEAR – LINDA DERK
FACA ALL-STATE ACADEMIC AWARDS CLASS 3A
FACA ALL-STATE ATHLETIC AWARDS 3A