MOORE HAVEN — Facing high school pitchers and batters is one way for the middle school softball players at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School to acclimate themselves to the next level where several Lady Seminoles will likely play in the coming years.
Filled with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, the 10 players on PECS already get a taste of high school ball by playing against junior varsity squads that usually feature ninth- and 10th-graders.
Additionally, head coach Amber Thornton and assistant coach Brittany Osceola said part of the team’s agenda this season includes a trip to an Okeechobee High School varsity practice where they’ll see how Brahmans coach Mary Huff runs drills and the approach her players take on the field.
“We’re going to take them to a high school practice so they get an idea what it’s really like to play high school ball because sometimes they come out here and want to play; some days they don’t, and you can’t do that in high school ball,” Osceola said after PECS notched its first win of the season, 16-5, against Moore Haven’s junior varsity/middle school team on Presidents Day in Moore Haven.
After suffering setbacks to LaBelle and Imagine, the Lady Seminoles made a dent in the win column by generating 14 runs in the first three innings to up their record to 1-2.
“The girls needed this. They did better,” Thornton said. “I’m glad.”
PECS received a solid outing in the circle from eighth-grader Janessa Nunez. Normally the team’s starting pitcher, Janessa entered the game in relief with PECS in front, 8-4. She tamed Moore Haven’s bats by using good control and occasional tempting change-ups that kept the Lady Terriers off balance. Janessa’s four strong innings included seven strikeouts and no earned runs.
“She comes out really aggressive. She comes to play ball,” Osceola said. “She stays calm. She’s a good pitcher.”
PECS struggled in the field at times but made up for it with a productive afternoon at the plate that Janessa helped spark by scoring three runs from the leadoff spot.
With the game knotted at 4-4, Alaina Sweat put PECS ahead for good with a single that brought home her sister Julia Smith. The game featured an additional caveat for Alaina and Julia. They faced their older sister and former teammate, Caroline Micco, who caught for Moore Haven. Each time Alaina and Julia came up to bat, they exchanged good-natured verbal jabs with Caroline.
“When Julia would get on the bag, Caroline would really try to get her out,” Osceola said. “She did get her out at home.”
The play at the plate between sisters occurred in the fourth inning. Julia hustled to beat out an infield single that scored two runs. Later in the inning, she tried to score on a slide at the plate but was blocked and tagged out by Caroline. It was the second time Caroline recorded an out against one of her sisters. Earlier, she caught a foul ball off the bat of Alaina.
Julia and Jaycee Jumper provided early season power for PECS in its first two games. Julia smacked a home run on opening day; Jaycee drilled two home runs in the second game.
There were no home runs against Moore Haven, but sixth-grader Elle Thomas ripped a double. Alyssa Gonzales drew four walks and scored twice. Karey Gopher had an RBI single.
For most of the Lady Seminoles, softball is their third sport of the school year. They racked up winning records in volleyball in the fall and basketball in the winter.
“They’re strong; they’re athletic,” Thornton said. “These girls are talented.”