It’s all the rage: Springstead’s Paige (Pfent) voted Player of the Year (again)

 

Paige Pfent                                                                                                                                Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
NEWEST OSPREY – As Paige Pfent inks her national letter of intent to play D-I softball at Jacksonville’s University of North Florida Ospreys, she backed by supporters (left to right): SHS Head  Coach Craig Swartout, mother Tina Pfent, brother Brendan Pfent, father Jeff Pfent, and SHS Principal Carmine Rufa. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

SOFTBALL

Senior catcher leaves

a legacy by rewriting

SHS, county record books

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

As the curtains came down on Year 39 of Hernando County fast-pitch softball, so ended the prep career of perhaps its best-ever player.

Spring Hill’s Paige Pfent concluded her fourth prep season with several calling cards.

Paige Pfent

The 5-foot-7, 180-pound receiver was a catalyst in leading the Lady Eagles to an outstanding 97-17 run (87 percent) over the past four seasons.

Forget her three Hernando County team titles as a sophomore, junior and senior years.

One may even overlook reaching the title game of the Leopard Slam in each of the last three seasons, including back-to-back crowns in 2016-17.

Could anyone have not noticed three consecutive district titles – which had never been done before in Spring Hill?

What about carving over 20-plus wins over the last four seasons under one skipper: Craig Swartout.

Ernie Chatman

That’s only been done once before under Hall of Famer Ernie Chatman at Hernando High from 1998-2001.

Though Pfent didn’t play by herself, she certainly stoked the fire in the Lady Eagles’ run.

The Michigan native’s final curtain call this season enabled her to set 10 school records and six county records.

Try duplicating her feats.

With her prep resume completed, area coaches feted the 18-year-old Pfent to not just her fourth All-Hernando County all-star squad, but her second Player of the Year honor.

Pfent 411

Recapping a stellar 24-5 senior campaign, Pfent converted 217 of 219 total chances (.991) on defense.

Assistant Coach Hector Ortiz (left) and SHS Head Coach Craig Swartout (far right) are bookends sandwiching four 2018 Lady Eagle seniors – Delaney Woodall, Stephanie Bunyon, Paige Pfent, Kayla Cruz – who enabled the Spring Hill nine to collect 97 wins over the past four seasons Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

She ranked second in the circuit in total chances (219) and putouts (205) to HHS sophomore receiver Taliyah Dowdell.

She had led the circuit in those same two categories for three years.

Paige Pfent                                                                                         Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Pfent, however, also threw out 8-of-15 runners attempting to steal (53 percent).

By comparison, Dowdell, totaled two assists.

Known as a public menace at the plate, Pfent captured the county batting crown again, collecting 50 hits in 87 at-bats for a personal-best .575 average.

As a freshman, she finished seventh in the county in hitting.

Paige Pfent                                                                                       Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

As a sophomore she won the prestigious Triple Crown of Hernando County, capturing the batting title (.543), leading the circuit in homeruns (12) and runs batted in (52).

As a junior, she finished runner-up in the batting race to Hernando High’s Josey Sims, .561 to .444.

Besides posting the county’s best batting average in 2018, she led the local circuit in hits (50), singles (30), homers (10), on-base percentage (.651) and slugging percentage 1.034).

From 2015-18, she set SHS school records for career games (111), at-bats (355), hits (176), extra-base hits (84), doubles (41), homers (32), RBI (152) and batting average (.496).

In the process, Pfent set county records for most extra-base hits (84), doubles (41), homers (32), RBI (152), most intentional walks in a single season (4), and went 10-for-10 during the 2018 Leopard Slam and reached base 15 times in 15 consecutive plate appearances.

Outside of the diamonds, Pfent was a two-year member of the prestigious National Honor Society.

The classroom all-star maintained a 3.7 unweighted and 4.3 weighted grade point average on the Mariner Boulevard campus.

She also earned 34 dual enrollment credits toward her AA degree.

Her favorite classes included micro and macro economics with Brandon Wright.

University of North Florida Ospreys

To top it off, the future elementary school teacher signed Division I with the University of North Florida Ospreys in Jacksonville.

“I’d like to teach second-graders,” said Pfent. “and minor in special education.”

On why she would like to enter education, “I was influenced when I was young. I love kids. I want to enjoy my job day. To me, this is my way of giving back to the teachers who helped me.”

Why the Ospreys?

In the recruiting process, Pfent whittled her list of college suitors to five schools, but eventually visited three: UNF, Georgia Southern and Florida Atlantic University.

University of North Florida Ospreys

“I chose UNF because they had my major,” recalled Pfent. “It’s a great education school. I remember the visit,” she said. “It was like everything clicked. I give all the credit in the world to coaches and players I met when I was there. It just seemed like it was the best fit for me.”

The Ospreys coaching staff didn’t fluff anything up.

“As far as playing time,” recalled Pfent. “the coaches explained that was in my hands. If I continued to work hard, I could start.”

Pfent: Coaches heap praise

Area mentors praised Pfent’s selection as POY.

Craig Swartout                           Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“Her records speak for themselves … On what stands out? Every time she stepped into the box, she could change a game’s complexion with one swing; just ask Crystal River,” declared SHS skipper Craig Swartout. “She’s a phenomenal player … We will miss her bat… As far as a player, she’s unparalleled in Hernando County … She achieved things that no one else has sniffed … When you talk about the best-ever player in the county, there is no more conversation, it’s Paige Pfent.”

Kevin Bittinger Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“Pfent was an exceptional hitter, not just this year, but for four years,” stressed HHS veteran mentor Kevin Bittinger. “We’re lucky that we got to see that kind of ability in this county every day … She was a special player… There aren’t a lot of kids like her.”

 

Jug Olmstead

“In the back of my mind, I’m glad not to see her next year … It was a pleasure coaching against her …With her at the plate, the possibility was there of her knocking it out,” shared fourth-year Nature Coast Technical mentor Jug Olmstead. “She’s been one of the biggest offensive threats I’ve ever come across … She did a great job for four years … I’m anxious to follow her career going forward.”

“She put a few balls over Mariner (Boulevard) against us,” shared Central High’s 11th-year mentor Tyson Ellis. “She’s an excellent player, an excellent leader … I think very highly of her … She deserves Player of the Year.”

“I think Paige did fantastic,” added Weeki Wachee’s Charlene Ross. “She was good not just behind the plate, but was a team leader… She always came through in the clutch.”

Rewinding the clock

Paige was born the youngest of two siblings to Jeff and Tina Pfent in Port Huron, Michigan – just outside of Detroit.

Jeff was an avid skier and golfer, who specialized in retail construction in Puerto Rico.

Her mother, works at Banfield Pet Hospital at PetSmart in Spring Hill, was a cheerleader from Marysville, Michigan.

The Pfent’s older son, Brendan, was athletic enough to be named an all-county linkster for the Eagles.

The Pfent’s have called Spring Hill home for the past 11 years.

If one believes that Pfent has been raised on dusty sandlots, you’d be close.

Paige’s athletic roots trace back to softball at the Anderson Snow Sports Complex.

Starting at 9, she played Spring Hill Dixie Softball for four seasons.

At 10, she began playing travel softball with the Overdrive – guided by Kama Woodall’s father: Rich.

She also played with the Tampa Diamonds and participated with the Tampa Mustangs, under Joe Bell, for three seasons.

Challenger K-8 Navigators

In middle school, she attended Challenger K-8 and was a multi-sport athlete.

With the Navigators, Pfent played three seasons of volleyball, basketball and softball.

Once she matriculated to SHS, she played one junior varsity season of volleyball as a sophomore, but remained loyal to softball, participating in four varsity campaigns.

Looking back

Before heading toward Duval County, Pfent fondly looked back at her time at SHS.

“It’s kinda bitter sweet time,” shared Pfent. “When I first arrived at Springstead, I didn’t know I was gonna play so well. The game just clicked for me.”

Paige Pfent vacates her spot behind home plate. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Of all her achievements, Pfent admits amassing 152 runs batted in, stands out.

“The RBI record and all the homers (32) were something special,” emphasized Pfent. “I put in a lot of work to do both. The success came thanks to my work ethic. I don’t ever stop watching softball.”

During the summer, prior to arriving at UNF, she continues to play on one of the elite teams in the state: the Gold Coast Warriors, guided by Marty Cooper.

When she’s not playing for the Warriors, she’ll continue to take hitting lessons from Coach Lilley in Trinity on Mondays, take catching lessons from Courtney Sager on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and work out or play games on her own on Thursdays and Fridays.

On what her schedule has been like for the past four years, “This is what I needed to do to get where I wanted to go,” stressed Pfent.

On which games stood out for Pfent, she immediately responded with the Leopard Slams.

Paige Pfent Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“Those have been some of the biggest games I’ve ever played in,” she said. “We worked hard to get to the finals three years in a row. This was a high school team unlike any other. We spent a lot of time together.

“… My teammates did their job getting on base. My job was to get them home. I can‘t give them enough credit,” added Pfent. “This team was my second family. I’m gonna miss putting on the Springstead jersey.”

Pfent believes she’s improved due to her strength and conditioning regimen as well as her mental approach at the plate.

“I’ve really worked on my agility,” stressed Pfent. “I have to be even more agile at the next level.”

Paige Pfent

On heading to UNF, “I’m super excited. I’ll miss my mom, but my parents will come to games,” Pfent said.

Before she packs for her next destination, she was asked what her legacy should be, “I want to be remembered as someone who was a leader and helped push the team. It excites me to know who’ll wear No. 37 next,” said Pfent. “I thought I set a certain standard for student-athletes to follow.” 

By the Numbers:

Springstead’s Paige Pfent (2015-18)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Paige Pfent sizes up a pitch against Crystal River. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YR.

 

GP

 

AB

 

R

 

H

 

2B

 

3B

 

HR

 

RBI

 

.AVG

2015

25

84

24

35

7

5

4

29

.417

2016

29

94

40

51

14

5

12

52

.543

2017

28

90

31

40

10

2

5

33

.444

2018

29

87

35

50

10

0

10

38

.575

 

TOT

 

111

 

355

 

130

 

176

 

41

 

12

 

31

 

152

 

.496

 

*

*

*

*^

*

*^

*^

*

* Denotes school record.                                      ^ Denotes county record.

 

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