The Sebring High School softball team has enjoyed its best season in many years by qualifying for the Class 6A state playoffs.
The Blue Streaks beat Dunedin in the regional quarterfinals and play at Lake Wales on Tuesday night in a regional semifinal.
The Blue Streaks are talented, have excellent depth, and are led by the dynamic duo of power-hitting first baseman Jade Sinness and ace pitcher Maci Barnhart.
Sinness, a versatile senior who has signed a softball scholarship with Troy University in Alabama, batted a robust .630 with 40 RBI, 6 home runs, 6 triples and a 1.222 slugging percentage.
“Jade has established herself as one of the most feared and respected hitters in Highlands and surrounding counties,” said Sebring softball coach and father Joe Sinness. “It’s been a great four-year ride and a privilege and an honor to coach my daughter. She’s accomplished a lot of her goals and she still has some goals ahead of her.”
Barnhart, a hard-throwing junior right-hander, went 20-0 during the regular season with a microscopic 0.37 ERA. Barnhart had 187 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings, tossed 9 shutouts, and only allowed 31 hits.
“Maci’s relentless work ethic over the last couple years has made her into one of the most dominant pitchers in the state and her stats back it up,” Coach Sinness said. “She has been phenomenal and our team knows every time she steps on the mound we are going to get two things from her: Her A game and a smile with confidence.”
For their ability and accomplishments, Sinness and Barnhart have been selected as the Highlands News-Sun 2019 All-Highlands Softball Co-Players of the Year.
“It means a lot to me to win this award,” Jade Sinness said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get where I am. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great teammates who step up when the other team tries to pitch around me. This is my senior year and to win this award for the fourth year is pretty neat.”
“I’m so blessed to win this award with Jade,” Barnhart said. “Jade is someone I’ve looked up to and to share this award with her is really special.”
Kyleigh Jackson, junior, Avon Park — Jackson played catcher and had a team-high batting average of .455. “Kyleigh caught every game and only had 7 passed balls all season,” said Red Devil softball coach Heather Barnes-Rogers. “Kyleigh had a great season at the plate and almost always puts the ball in play and makes things happen. She has really taken the time to learn the game and become a force behind the plate. We spend a lot of extra time after practice perfecting her skills and she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached.”
Waldina Flores, junior, Lake Placid — Flores batted .371 at the DP position for the Green Dragons. “Waldina was used in the DP position and she has hit the ball hard all year long,” said Lake Placid softball coach Gus Diez.
Johneisha Rowe, senior, Sebring — Johneisha batted .589 with 14 RBI and a team-leading 27 stolen bases. “Johneisha applies pressure on defenses with her ability to bunt, slap or swing for a base hit. When she gets on, teams know she is going to steal,” coach Sinness said.
Makayla Painter, junior, Avon Park — Painter was a pitcher and batted .259 for the Red Devils. She tossed 8 complete games. “Makayla did very well for us this season,” Barnes-Rogers said. “She has the best attitude and is one of those players that is always giving 100 percent no matter what the situation is. She did an amazing job keeping hitters off-balance. Very few batters hit her hard and she was able to keep us in games.”
Sydney Wells, senior, Lake Placid — Wells played catcher and batted .414 to help the Green Dragons qualify for the Class 5A state playoffs. “Sydney has been our starting catcher for three years,” Diez said. “ She is our cleanup batter and has been very calm and has had great approaches at the plate. She leads our team in average and has has come up huge in big moments.”
Alyssa Perez, junior, Sebring — Perez batted .477 with 24 Runs, 34 RBI, 3 home runs, 8 doubles, and 12 stolen bases. “Alyssa anchors our defense at shortstop and is one of our best all-around players,” coach Sinness said. “She has a cannon for an arm, is our cleanup hitter and can swipe a base when needed.”
Edboni Hipps, junior, Avon Park — Hipps played centerfield and batted .438 for the Red Devils. “Edboni is as solid as it gets in centerfield,” Barnes-Rogers said. “She’s made multiple diving plays and thrown runners out all season. Her speed in the outfield sets her up to make unbelievable plays. Edboni has developed into such a great player, I don’t think she even understands how good she is and how much potential she has, but when she does and it clicks, she’s going to be unstoppable.”
Jordan Diez, senior, Lake Placid — Diez played first base and batted .312 to help the Green Dragons make the state playoffs. “Jordan has been a four-year varsity starter and moved from second base to first base this year and has not skipped a beat,” coach Diez said. “She is our leadoff batter and really works the count very well.”
Emily Bible, senior, Sebring — Bible played catcher and batted .348 with 18 runs, 3 doubles and 10 stolen bases going into the district tournament. “Emily returned for her second year and is our leader behind the plate,” coach Sinness said. “She has worked hard to improve her blocking and framing the last couple years and does a good job throwing runners out that attempt to steal.”
Gwen Gordon, sophomore, Avon Park — Gordon played 2B/3B and batted .293 for the Red Devils. “Gwen is just an all around amazing athlete and is one of those players that I feel like I can put anywhere and she’d be successful,” Barnes-Rogers said. “Her main position for us has been second base, and she can hold her own there against anybody. But an injury to another player moved her to third halfway through the season. She didn’t miss a beat and has been solid at the hot corner. Gwen has also been our leadoff batter this season and has done a very good job getting on base and making things happen.”
Kylie Elliott, senior, Lake Placid — Elliott played centerfield and batted .310 to help the Green Dragons make the state playoffs. “Kylie has moved to multiple positions this season to fill in where needed but she was finally able to move to her best position which is centerfield,” coach Diez said. “She covers a lot of ground and her great arm makes it tough on anyone trying to to take extra bases when ball is hit to her”
Layla Taylor, senior, Sebring — Taylor batted .373 with 14 Runs, 19 RBI and 2 doubles heading into the district tournament. “Layla is our gold glove that locks down third base,” coach Sinness said. “Over the last couple of years she has proven to opposing teams that you cannot hit it past her or bunt on her for a hit.”
Thalia Sanchez, freshman, Avon Park — Sanchez was a versatile player and batted .259 for the Red Devils. “Thalia has done such a great job her freshman year,” Barnes-Rogers said. “She’s had quite a few key hits that have kept us in games or scored runners to get us ahead in games. She has also made a few appearances on the mound. Thalia has done a great job keeping the ball down and keeping batters off-balance with her off-speed pitching. She has worked really hard this season developing a deeper understanding of pitch placement. If she continues working as hard as she did this season she’s going to be a real force on the mound her next three years.”
Nitzellie Amaro, senior, Lake Placid — Amaro was the ace of the Green Dragons pitching staff. “Chely has been a great leader on the mound,” coach Diez said. “She has worked hard in the summer and it has showed. She has pitched in many big games this year and has given us a chance to win in all her appearances on the mound”
Coach Of The Year
For guiding their team’s to the state playoffs, Lake Placid’s Gus Diez and Sebring’s Joe Sinness have been selected as the Highlands News-Sun 2019 All-Highlands Co-Softball Coach of the Year.