Local stars in running for Class 1A Miss Softball

It may be a foregone conclusion who the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A Coach of the Year is. And it’s likely the 1A Player of the Year will come from the same team.

Earlier in the season Trenton softball coach Todd Bryant wasn’t sure if this year’s team could win state. However, the defending 2019 Class 1A state champions defeated Jay, 5-4, on Wednesday, May 19, to win back-to-back titles.

Despite the fact that Trenton had four Division-I signees on the team, there was still a lot of unknown about the 2021 Tigers’ season.

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“This was a young team,” Bryant said. “The bottom of our order was really young. We were starting a sixth grader at second base.”

Bryant was also concerned about COVID-19 because at any time someone could have gotten sick “and they could have quarantined us and shut us down.”

Trenton (20-1) also had to defeat Dixie County (Cross City) three times.

The Bears, who were ranked No. 1 in the state heading into the postseason, finished 20-3, with all three losses to the Tigers.

“Keeli (Zingaro) hit a home run in every game against them and it was a meaningful home run in every game,” Bryant said. “They are a team to deal with. They should have been in the final four.”

Trenton defeated Dixie County, 4-0, in the region finals to advance to the final four in Clermont.

Dixie County pitcher Bria Hinkle was nominated for the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A Player of the Year, along with other area players Leah Clark of Union County (Lake Butler), Cera McElreth of Branford, and Darian Ingram of Trenton.

Hinkle was 13-3 with a 1.06 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 113 innings pitched, Clark batted .541 with 14 extra base hits, 26 RBI and 31 stolen bases, and McElreth batted .515 with 10 doubles, 29 runs scored, and 19 RBI in leading the Bucs (15-5) to the final four.

The votes were cast on Friday, but the odds-on favorite might be Ingram, who struck out 17 Branford batters in the state semifinals and 13 in the state championship game against Jay.

She threw eight no-hitters this season and averaged 2.05 strikeouts per innings pitched.

“Keeli had some big hits for us all year long, but Darian kept everybody from scoring, so it allowed us to not have the offense that we’ve had in years past and still continue to win.” Bryant said.

Branford coach Oscar Saavedra, Greg Wimberley of Dixie County, Jim Godwin of Union County, and Trenton’s Bryant were nominated for the 1A Coach of the Year.

In addition to winning its second straight state title, Trenton was 57-1 the past three years under Bryant.

Once the classification winners are announced, the media will vote for an overall Player of the Year, or Miss Softball, and the overall Coach of the Year amongst the seven classifications.

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