Hatcher, Saavedra finish runner-up

Branford coach Oscar Saavedra (left) and Dixie County catcher Peyton Hatcher finished second in voting for the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A coach and player of the year, respectively.
Photo by C.J. Gish

On Monday, the Florida Dairy Farmers Association announced its classification winners for the 2023 Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Softball and Softball Coach of the Year.

Dixie County (Cross City) catcher Peyton Hatcher finished second in the voting for the Class 1A Player of the Year, while Branford coach Oscar Saavedra was runner-up for the Class 1A Coach of the Year.

Dixie County coach Greg Wimberley finished third in the voting.

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Hatcher had a big senior campaign.

The Florida Gateway College signee batted .513 with a team-leading 39 hits, 16 doubles, and 27 RBI. She only committed one error all season and finished with a .995 fielding percentage.

Northwest Florida State College signee Elizabeth Arnold finished first in the voting for the Class 1A Player of the Year.

Greg Wimberley
Photo by C.J. Gish Dixie County coach Greg Wimberley led the Bears to the Class 1A state semifinals for the second straight year.

The senior catcher led Liberty County (Bristol) to the Class 1A state title. She finished with a .479 batting average, 13 doubles, 8 home runs, 43 runs scored and 39 runs batted in.

Her coach, Jennifer Sewell, was named the 1A Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs (21-8) to their second state title and first since 2013.

Liberty County defeated Dixie County, 6-2, in the state semifinals, while Branford defeated defending state champion Jay, 2-1, in the other semifinal before falling to Liberty County, 7-4, in the state championship game.

It was the second state semifinal appearance for Saavedra in the past three years and the Bucs (25-5) first state championship game appearance in program history.

Dixie County (21-6) advanced to its second straight state semifinal by defeating Williston a third time this season, 5-3, in the Class 1A-Region 4 Final.

Every finalist was the leading vote-getter in their classification, making each one the Player of the Year or Coach of the Year in their class. The two overall winners will be announced following a final round of balloting by coaches and media.

Following are the Miss Softball Award finalists:

Isabella Santos, Senior, Catcher, Spanish River, Class 7A Player of the Year

Santos led her team to the state title with a .403 batting average, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 9 home runs, 20 runs scored and 30 runs batted in. Committed to Auburn University-Montgomery.

Katelynn Oxley, Junior, Pitcher, Bartow, Class 6A Player of the Year

Oxley led her team to the state title with a 20-2 record, an 0.37 ERA and 263 strikeouts in 133 innings. She also hit for a .462 average with 32 RBI. She has committed to the University of Florida.

Isabella Vega, Senior, Pitcher, Parrish Community, Class 5A Player of the Year

Vega helped her squad to the state title with a 14-2 record, an 0.67 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 126 innings. Committed to the University of Central Florida.

Zamya McBurrows, Senior, Shortstop, Lake Wales, Class 4A Player of the Year

Led her team to the state championship with a .413 batting average, 8 doubles, 4 home runs, 38 runs scored, 26 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases. Committed to Florida International University.

Hannah Taylor, Senior, Catcher, Hernando, Class 3A Player of the Year

Taylor helped her team to the regional final by batting .546 with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 17 home runs, 47 runs scored and 50 runs batted in. Committed to Eckerd College.

Sophia Kardatzke, Junior, Pitcher, University Christian, Class 2A Player of the Year

Led her team to the state title with a 20-0 record, a 1.35 ERA in 120 innings and 219 strikeouts. She hit .662 with 13 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs, 42 runs scored and 50 runs batted in.

Elizabeth Arnold, Senior, Catcher, Liberty County, Class 1A Player of the Year

Led her team to the state championship with a .479 batting average, 13 doubles, 8 home runs, 43 runs scored and 39 runs batted in. Signed with Northwest Florida State College.

Following are the Softball Coach of the Year finalists:

Ashley Byrd, Spanish River, Class 7A Coach of the Year

Led her squad to a 17-8-1 record and the school’s first state title after entering the tournament as a No. 7 region seed and then defeating Class 7A No. 1 Lake Brantley in the semis and No. 3 Plant, 3-2, in the championship game.

Glenn Rutenbar, Bartow, Class 6A Coach of the Year

The two-time state Coach of the Year (2004 and 2006) led his team to a 29-3 record and the state title, the school’s ninth state championship, but first since 2016.

Erin Spivey, Parrish Community, Class 5A Coach of the Year

Led her squad to a 24-3 record and the school’s first state title, defeating 2022 Class 4A champion Deltona, 5-0, in the 5A championship game.

Mike Settle, Lake Wales, Class 4A Coach of the Year

Led his squad to a 21-11 record and the state title a year after losing to Deltona in the state championship game. It was the school’s third state title and the first for Settle.

Dion Weaver, Clearwater Calvary Christian, Class 3A Coach of the Year

In his second year at Calvary, Weaver led his squad to a 22-7 record and its second straight state championship a year after winning the school’s first softball title.

Keith Stroud, University Christian, Class 2A Coach of the Year

In his 32nd year as UC’s head coach, Stroud led his team to a 23-2 record and the school’s first state title, after state runnerup finishes in both 2021 and 2022.

Jennifer Sewell, Liberty County, Class 1A Coach of the Year

Led her squad to a 21-8 record and the school’s second state championship (2013). Sewell also coached the Liberty County volleyball team to the Class 1A state title last November.

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