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Seminoles fill the rosters, coaching ranks for Moore Haven High School softball

Moore Haven High School varsity softball coach Jaryaca Baker talks to her infield during a trip to the pitcher’s circle in the Terriers’ game against Clewiston on Feb. 19, 2021, at Moore Haven High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

MOORE HAVEN — It’s not hard to find tribal representation this year on the softball field at Moore Haven High School.

Led by first-year varsity head coach Jaryaca Baker, first-year JV head coach Dallas Nunez and his daughters Brianna and Janessa, who are assistant coaches, the Terriers’ program is filled with Seminoles in the coaching staffs and throughout the rosters. Baker’s sister plays, as does another daughter of Nunez. They are among the nine players from the tribe.

Moore Haven High School varsity softball player Preslynn Baker, an eighth-grader, fields a grounder at second base during the Terriers’ home opener Feb. 19, 2021, against Clewiston. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“Having an all-tribal staff and a good number of tribal athletes to me is humbling,” Baker said. “From personal experiences and obstacles I faced growing up, I feel like young tribal athletes seeing us out there bring them out because they can be comfortable and feel the same level of equality.”
Moore Haven has generated plenty of success in recent years, including multiple trips to the state final four, even reaching the championship game in 2014. Those squads were loaded with experience from juniors and seniors; in contrast, this season’s varsity team features an abundance of younger players.

“My goal for the team is to build this year. Find everyone’s weaknesses and build it up,” Baker said. “We have an extremely young team this year, so building is important. They all have the heart and the talent; we just have minor things to fix.”

In a junior varsity game Feb. 19, 2021, Moore Haven infielders Tehya Nunez, right, and Tahnia Billie try to nab a Clewiston runner at second base. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Among those young players from the tribe are third baseman Summer Gopher and Jaryaca’s sister Preslynn Baker. Despite being an eighth grader playing against girls four or five years older than her, Preslynn was a standout in the team’s first victory. She went 3-for-4 and was the winning pitcher as the Terriers defeated Gateway Charter-Fort Myers, 12-8, on Feb. 23. Other tribal members shined, too, in the victory.

“Illa Trueblood was a pinch runner for our pitcher/catcher and she is phenomenal on the bases,” coach Baker said. “Our babies of the team – Tehya Nunez and Jolene Nunez – really stepped up when we needed them. Tehya played amazing at second base and she’s only in sixth grade. Seventh grader Aaryn King also had a good couple at bats.”

Moore Haven junior varsity pitcher Joleyn Nunez and first baseman Illa Trueblood face Clewiston in the team’s first game Feb. 19, 2021, in Moore Haven. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Some of those young players will spend a majority of time on the JV this year, but will get a taste of varsity. Also, some of those players would normally be playing for Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, but are suiting up as Terriers because sports at PECS have yet to be played this academic year due to the pandemic.

The JV team’s potential was evident in its first game of the season as it roared to an 8-3 lead against Clewiston on Feb. 19. That evening the team’s batting order included Illa Trueblood (1st), Tehya Nunez (2nd), Joleyne Nunez (4th), Tahnia Billie (6th), Aaliyah Billie (7th) and Jayleigh Braswell (9th).

Although Clewiston came back and won, Moore Haven provided a glimpse of burgeoning talent. Coach Nunez said his squad is essentially a middle school team playing on the JV level.

“We have to compete up, so it’s only going to make them stronger in the end,” he said. “They held their own. They did good. I was proud of them.”

Moore Haven High School junior varsity softball coach Dallas Nunez addresses his team during a break Feb. 19, 2021, in Moore Haven. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. He also worked for more than a decade in management and public relations for a hockey program in New England that produced several college and NHL players. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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