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Four Things: Strawberry Crest, Bloomingdale pick up wins at East Bay's preseason classic

Bloomingdale SS Camryn VanGalder in a preseason contest against East Bay on Feb. 13, 2024.

GIBSONTON – Whether you are a fan of offense and high-scoring games, pitching and defense, or chicken parmesan sandwiches from your local concession stand, East Bay’s preseason classic doubleheader on Tuesday had just about everything.

 

Strawberry Crest and Riverview duked it out in a game that finished on a bobbled ball at second base, earning the Chargers an 11-10, walk-off victory. In the nightcap, a pitcher’s duel ensued between a pair of Division I-bound pitchers in the first three innings, as Bloomingdale held off East Bay, 2-0.

 

Here are four things we noticed from the doubleheader:


What we saw – A confident Camryn VanGalder helps Bloomingdale shut out East Bay


The defensive play of the night came in the nightcap when a soft ground ball trickled toward Bloomingdale shortstop Camryn VanGalder. The senior came up strong and fired home to get East Bay’s Jessalyn Lugo breaking from third, keeping the tying run from scoring in the fourth inning.

 

With UCLA commit Natalie Cable back for her junior season, the Bulls are going to see plenty of small ball, just like they have the past two. And while Cable wasn’t pitching at the time, nor was it a traditional ‘small ball’ type of play with a suicide squeeze, that type of confident play is going to be extremely beneficial for Bloomingdale come playoff time.

 

“I think it’s all about support, who you play with and who you play for,” VanGalder said. “Of course, I’ve grown mechanics-wise and I’ve learned over the years, but I have great coaches, a great team, I know I’m playing behind a great person and a great pitcher. I love playing for people and I know I have a great team to play behind and that everyone has my back, I’m comfortable.”


What we think – Elana Roush’s return to form puts East Bay back in playoff conversation


Let’s not forget that the Indians were the lone Hillsborough County team standing in the state playoffs two seasons ago. There was so much youth on that roster – just two seniors and one junior – that the Final 4 appearance was felt to be way ahead of schedule. Fast forward to now, and the hope around the clubhouse is to get back to that point with many of those freshmen and sophomores that reached Clermont, now juniors and seniors.

 

“We have a little bit of a larger senior group and I think that’s very important, because they’ve been here and they’ve done it,” veteran East Bay head coach Glenn Rodriguez said. “Plus, the juniors that are with me, they did it too. We’ve been waiting on this group to get to where they are now.”

 

A healthy Elana Roush will be an important factor. The Florida Gulf Coast signee got the start and was on point in four innings against Bloomingdale, striking out eight and allowing just one unearned run on two hits. She threw 100 less innings in her junior year compared to her sophomore and the Indians struggled when she was out in April and May due to injury. East Bay has the arms to spread out innings between Molly Johnson, Jensen Nelson and even Aisha Duncan, which should help the Indians’ ace get a break when needed.

 

“If Elana pitches the way she did today, that’s going to be a big key,” Rodriguez said. “I think our pitching’s gotten better and I think we’ve gotten deeper there, should be able to rest Elana a little bit more than we have in the past.”


What we’re interested to see – What Strawberry Crest’s pitching staff can accomplish this year


It’s very evident that the Chargers can put the softball in play and do it at a high rate. They hit .358 last season and even after losing four players that hit .335 or better, it seems they’ve reloaded slightly with freshman Ava Cater, who grabbed a double and drove in a run early with a sacrifice fly. Madison Houseworth impressed by driving in a couple of runs and Chargers’ known big bats between Lola Coole and Kennedy Shea produced in a wacky, 11-10, walk-off victory.

 

What intrigues us is how Strawberry Crest’s pitching staff will come along. Overall, sophomore Katie Watts had a solid evening. She allowed three runs in three innings, exiting the game with a seven-run advantage before re-entering in the seventh. Riverview tied it there on an RBI single, but Watts was able to keep it tied. And even though freshman Destiny Bryant had an off night by Strawberry Crest’s standards, there’s plenty of belief she’ll have a strong rookie campaign.

 

“Katie, honestly, brings a lot of energy to the mound and Destiny’s a hard worker. They’re totally different pitchers, it’s a great duo to have,” Shea said.


What we liked – Riverview’s no-quit attitude and rally through the late innings


Early on, it appeared the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader was headed to an early finish. What ensued was a three-hour slugfest that saw the Sharks overcome a seven-run deficit to tie the game on Arianna Brown’s RBI single in the final frame. There were positives to take away – Eastern Florida State College commit Natalia Leon had a two-run double in the third and a solo homer in the sixth, freshman Camryn Demilio threw up back-to-back scoreless innings to keep the rally on and overall, it never left like Riverview was fully out of the game.

 

Sure, the Sharks have some things to figure out in the circle after graduating ace pitcher Madison Carney, but there are a lot of teams in that boat right now. Riverview will lean on pitching coach Lace Smith – a Bloomingdale and University of Buffalo alumna – to work on developing their arms in 2024.

 

“I was proud of them for coming back, fighting and not giving up,” Riverview head coach Paul Ullom said. “Tony La Russa said it, don’t worry about results, focus on the process and execute. That’s it.”


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