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Hillsborough County Elite 8 Coaches Poll - Week 2, 2024

Sumner's Jaelyn Joiner.

The Elite 8 Coaches Poll is back for another season. Hillsborough County has flipped on its head over the last week and we're refreshing our rankings for the first time since the preseason poll!

 

Here’s how the coaches saw things after Week 2.

 

1. Sumner, 4-1 (4 first-place votes) / 8th last poll

 

It takes a lot for a team to catapult up the rankings like Sumner has since the preseason poll. But, when that team beats the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 nine days apart, that’s likely going to happen. Sure, the Stingrays suffered their first setback of the year on Monday in a 9-1 loss to Parrish Community. That’s a defending state champion, though, so a quality loss nonetheless. Aliyanis Stubbs was splendid against Plant, striking out 14 in that win, and the Stingrays’ offense has come up in nearly every big spot its needed to. This is uncharted territory for this relatively young group. The question now: how will they handle the success? Sumner rounds out the week with Tampa Bay Tech and Plant City.

 

2. Berkeley Prep, 6-1 (4 first-place votes) / 4th last poll

 

The only thing standing between Berkeley Prep and an undefeated record is a one-run loss at a talented Inspiration Academy team that checked in at second in our Manatee/Sarasota poll. The Buccaneers swept an overnight Orlando trip, winning their tenth straight over Central Florida competition since 2021. Notre Dame signee Kaia Cortes, Ella Malin, Gracie Murphy and MIT commit Holland Poe are all already in double figure hits, while junior Avery Powers is up to 61 strikeouts in 35.2 IP. Berkeley Prep has a tough two-game Pinellas County stretch with Osceola and Palm Harbor University on the docket.

 

3. Plant, 3-1 (1 first-place vote) / 1st last poll

 

Cassidy Masters was spectacular in the Panthers’ wins over Newsome and Gaither, needing 85  pitches or fewer to shut out both opponents. Plant rallied in its loss to Sumner, tying the game at 3-3 before allowing a five-run inning that separated the two sides. Graci Quinlan is off to a .400 start with a team leading six RBI and it’s clear that Plant is going to need more from its lineup. It is hitting just .221 with a .285 on-base percentage as a unit through four games. Tuesday, we’ll get a rematch of the Class 7A-Region 2 Semifinal when Steinbrenner heads to South Tampa in a game that will reveal a lot about how the potential playoff picture will look for both teams.

 

4. Bloomingdale, 2-0 (2 first-place votes) / 3rd last poll

 

It’s been a bit of a ‘ho-hum’ type start for Bloomingdale, which shut out Durant to start the year before defeating Gaither, 4-1. As expected, UCLA commit Natalie Cable has been dominant, striking out 35 across two complete games, allowing just three hits in that time. Florida Southern commit Cam Nolte leads the Bulls with a 3-for-4 start and fellow senior Camryn VanGalder has driven in a team-high three RBI. A return fixture awaits for the Bulls against Durant on Tuesday before traveling to Parrish Community later this week.

 

5. Academy of the Holy Names, 4-0 / 5th last poll

 

Some movement around them sees the Jaguars ultimately stay put from the preseason poll, amid a perfect start to the year record-wise. They rallied from a 4-1 deficit to steal a win from Land O’Lakes in Week 1 and have been dominant otherwise, outscoring opponents 35-8 across their first four. Princeton signee KK Hollenkamp has been doing it all, with a .643 average through 14 at-bats with three doubles and a homer, to go with 42 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. With Shelby Savitt, the duo’s worked a combined 1.40 ERA. Clare Bohinick is 8-for-12 to start the year and Holy Names will look to continue their roll after Spring Break when they participate in the Bay Made Fastpitch Elite Invitational for the first time.

 

6. Steinbrenner, 2-1 / 2nd last poll

 

We don’t know what to make of Steinbrenner falling four spots after a loss to the top-ranked team in our poll. It wasn’t like the Warriors were that far off from being higher, it just appears that Hillsborough is top-heavy right now. Steinbrenner bounced back with a 3-1 win over Sickles and a 9-2 win at Riverview in Week 2. Lily Holtje is one of the hottest hitters in the county, starting 6-for-8 with a ridiculous .818 on-base percentage. Jenna Fortenberry and freshman Sophie Luaces have been good early on to help the Warriors at the plate. Steinbrenner finishes a three-game road swing at Plant and Land O’Lakes.

 

7. Newsome, 3-1 / 7th last poll

 

The Wolves have walked it off twice in their three wins, so their 11-0 win over Robinson on Friday had to have felt significantly less stressful. Newsome has just five players that have seen ten-plus plate appearances, as its been a lot of mixing and matching over their first four games to find the right formula. Senior outfielder Grace Chin has scored the game-winning run twice for the Wolves in their walk-offs and they’ve been dangerous on the basepaths – Chin and Ari Williams have combined for nine of Newsome’s 13 stolen bases. They’ll look to continue their roll with road tests at Riverview, Strawberry Crest and Wharton in Week 3.

 

8. Wharton, 4-0 / NR last poll

 

For the first time in the Elite 8’s history, the Wildcats crack the rankings. The battle for eighth was fierce, with four teams within four votes of the final spot, but Wharton’s undefeated start – its best since 2015 – ultimately earned it a spot in the Elite 8. A 10-1 win in the season opener over Sickles raised some eyebrows and they’ve been able to continue their success with a one-run win over Strawberry Crest to finish Week 2. Eliza Connell has been a solid two-way player for the Wildcats early. She’s 7-for-14 at the plate with 21 strikeouts and a 0.52 ERA in 13.1 IP. Eliana Rivera leads Wharton with seven early RBI and a pair of triples to her name as it has gotten plenty of good offensive performances around the lineup. The Wildcats get an opportunity to show how far they’ve come with ranked battles against Plant and Newsome on the docket this week.

 

Also receiving votes:

 

Alonso, 3-1: After a season-opening loss to Lennard, the Ravens have rattled off three straight victories. Florida State commit Makenna Sturgis has driven in ten with four extra base hits.

 

Gaither, 0-3: The Cowboys gave Newsome quite the fight on opening night, falling 10-9. They’ve committed 14 errors in three games, something they’ll have to fix, especially when facing the type of pitching they did when they took on Bloomingdale and Plant.

 

Plant City, 4-1: The Raiders have outscored opponents 69-9 in five games. They’ll get a huge opportunity to move the needle with Sumner on the schedule before facing Home of Champions host Bartow over the weekend.

 

East Bay, 4-3: After a 1-3 outing in the Buffalo Stampede Tournament, the Indians bounced back with run-rule victories at Jefferson and versus King.

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