Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Finds Itself in Softball Finals in 'Rebuilding Year'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Finds Itself in Softball Finals in 'Rebuilding Year'

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Boleky

Mandarin High has become known for its softball, but at the beginning of the season, no one saw this coming.

The Mustangs are in the FHSAA Class 6A finals for the first time since 1996.

"I was considering this a rebuilding year, since we graduated our pitcher and catcher," said coach Natalia Gonzalez. "But once I saw them play a couple of games, I knew there was something special about this team. They don't ever give up."

With freshman Riley Carter as their top pitcher, Mandarin has built a 26-2 record and will face Miami Palmetto in the state semifinals Friday at Plant City Stadium.

The Mustangs defeated Timber Creek 7-6 on Tuesday in the regional finals to advance to the final four. Mandarin broke open a 4-4 tie in the top of the seventh. Junior Jenna Harbin drove in what proved to be the game-winning scores with a two-run double.

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If you think one run is a tight margin by which to advance to states, try 0.01 of a second. That's how Mandarin High freshman Courtney Walker qualified for the FHSAA Class 4A track and field finals in the 200-meter dash.

Walker edged Roberta Fisher of Lake Mary by the narrowest possible time to claim the final qualifying spot at the regional meet in Orlando April 23.

To make it as a freshman at the 4A (big school) level is an accomplishment in itself. Of the approximately 200 girls competing in individual events at today's state finals meet in Winter Park, Walker is one of only 21 ninth-graders to be there.

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Marcus Hunter is a few years older than Walker, but his eyes will probably be just as wide when he gets to the state meet.

The Mandarin High senior is still a virtual novice when it comes to track, which makes his qualifying for today's FHSAA Class 4A finals in the 100-meter dash so amazing.

Hunter joined the track team for the first time last season. Growing up, he says he always had speed, but didn't think to try it as a varsity sport. …

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