King's Academy, American Heritage softball teams have a score to settle at states
Thursday, May 10, 2012
by Jeff Greer
It's been more than a year since King's Academy and American Heritage shared the same softball field, but when the old district rivals take the field at noon Friday in the Class 3A state semifinals at the National Training Center in Clermont, those 386 days apart will quickly fade.
For two teams that know each other better than most, the Palm Beach County small-schools powerhouses will be settling a feud that never felt settled last season, when King's edged American Heritage to win the regular-season district championship and Heritage returned the favor in the district tournament. This game, of course, has much higher stakes, with American Heritage (22-6) defending its 2011 state title and King's (24-5) playing in its first state tournament in 14 years.
"We're better and they're better," King's Academy coach Tim Willcox said. "These girls know each other from last season. They play travel ball together over the summer. At this point, there won't be any surprises."
Even with the familiarity, both teams are different from last year .
American Heritage graduated its ace pitcher, Chelsea Brandt, from last year's title run, but the Stallions returned eight of the 10 starters from that lineup. Also, Heritage got transfer Corrie Boggess (10-5, 1.14 earned-run average), who pitched Wellington to the state semifinals last spring.
Boggess compiled a 10-5 record with a 1.14 earned-run average on the mound and hit five home runs, drove in 30 runs and led the team with a .444 batting average.
King's Academy, a young team with only two seniors, has improved dramatically in the field and at the plate, while pitcher Aubree Murphy (22-4) is the same dependable ace she was a year ago.
Kim Valdes (.505, 20 extra base hits, 32 RBI) and Kristen Wright (.535, 17 extra base hits, 41 runs scored) lead a quick and smart-hitting lineup that gives King's a new edge.
And the youth gives Willcox the sense that his team is playing with nothing to lose .
"(Heritage) doesn't want to lose their championship," Willcox said. "In some ways we're naive. There's not any pressure. We just take the field and play ball."