Local rivals and life-long friends face off for the second time this season, this time with plenty at stake on the eve of softball district tournaments.
Oviedo (14-4) hosts neighboring Hagerty (11-7) on Friday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students via the Go Fan app.
“It’s a big rivalry and it gets pretty competitive,” Hagerty senior Olivia Lipari said with a laugh. “We’ve been playing against some of these girls, or with these girls, since we were six years old. It’s always fun when you’re playing former teammates.”
Oviedo ruined Hagerty’s home opener on Feb. 16 – in the first game for both teams – when freshman standout Riley Fennell hit a home run in her first career varsity at-bat during a 3-1 win.
Hagerty’s loss was part of a 2-5 start to the season, which included a 9-8 setback in 13 innings vs. Lake Howell (8-8) and a 6-5 outing against undefeated Orange City University (16-0). The Huskies, who were scheduled to play Timber Creek (7-9) on Thursday, entered the week winners of nine of their past 11 games.
“We’ve finally figured out a way to win games and compete against good teams,” said Hagerty coach David Stone.
The turnaround is due in part to tinkering with the lineup. That has resulted in Lipari moving to the top of the order and getting more time at the plate, where she has thrived while leading the team in batting average (.431), RBIs (15), runs scored (29) and extra-base hits (10).
“We were a very young team at the beginning of the season,” Lipari said. “Now we’ve found our competitive drive and we’ve been hitting a lot better.”
Hagerty sits in a three-way tie for the third seed in Class 7A District 3 alongside Apopka (15-3) and Lake Mary (10-6). Those teams tallied a 13.1 score in FHSAA power rating this week. Oviedo trails Lake Brantley (14-4) for the No. 1 spot in the district by a 19.6 to 16.2 rating.
Games played through April 17 count toward seeding in district tournaments, which begin April 26. Only district champions and runners-up advance to the regional quarterfinal round.
“They’re going to be hungry, and we want to protect our home field,” Oviedo senior pitcher Catherine Buckner said of Hagerty. “To beat them at home would be a nice finishing touch to our season.”
Buckner and Lipari are travel ball teammates. Oviedo coach Jennifer (Quattry) Pecoraro was a player when Hagerty’s Stone was an assistant with the Lions. She later coached with Stone at Hagerty before taking over at her alma mater.
Several Oviedo players attended Hagerty’s senior night last week after playing a game of their own earlier in the evening.
Those are just a few examples of how well these programs are intertwined.
“I know their strengths and weaknesses and they know my strengths and weaknesses,” Buckner concedes.
Buckner enters the game with a 1.96 earned run average and 109 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. Fennell is batting .412 (21-for-51) with team highs in RBIs (21), runs scored (18) and home runs (8) in her debut season.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Pecoraro said. “Hagerty’s got a lot of talent. At the beginning it wasn’t so great for them, but they’re definitely gelling at the right time.”