Will Iamurri’s Bucs stop here or make the trip West to play for national title?

Robert Iamurri, right, instructs his Florida SouthWestern players during the second game of a home doubleheader sweep against Iowa Western Community College on March 18. PHOTO BY LINWOOD FERGUSON

BY PATRICK CLINES
AND GREGG HARDY

The Florida SouthWestern State College softball team owns a near-flawless 54-1 record and is ranked No. 1 in the country.

If his Buccaneers are harboring dreams of a national title, Robert Iamurri isn’t letting on to it. First, they have to get out of Florida — namely, the Florida College System Activities Association state tournament in Sanford this weekend.

“Every game we play, whether it’s at home, away or neutral grounds, is never easy,” said Iamurri, who won 12 state titles in 28 seasons as Naples High School’s coach before leaving in 2014 to launch the FSW program. “It is a challenge in Florida.”

Iamurri’s words rang true Friday night during his team’s FCSAA semifinal matchup with Indian River State College. (FSW opened the double-elimination state tourney with a 6-1 win Thursday against 19th-ranked Seminole State.) The Bucs, who dug out of an early 3-0 hole Friday, were clinging to a 6-5 lead in the fifth inning before adding a few insurance runs in a 9-5 win.

FSW will play fourth-ranked College of Central Florida (53-9) on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the state title and a spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I championship (held May 22-25 in St. George, Utah). The loser will play Sunday against another one-loss team; and the winner of that game will also make the national championship field.

The other teams still alive in the FCSAA state tourney include: No. 20 State College of Florida (45-15), which finished runner-up to FSW in the Suncoast; No. 3 Chipola College (44-5); No. 17 Seminole State (46-16); and Indian River State (35-16).

Under the guidance of Iamurri (who’s been named Suncoast Conference Coach of the Year in each of his first three seasons at FSW), the Bucs went 19-1 in league play this season. Their lone blemish was a 13-12 loss in nine innings to Hillsborough Community College (which went 20-28 this season) in the first game of a March 14 doubleheader.

FSW PLAYERS TO WATCH

Quietly, FSW’s Rebeca Laudino put together a 49-game hitting streak. PHOTO BY LINWOOD FERGUSON

Rebeca Laudino: With little fanfare, the freshman shortstop from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and this year’s Suncoast Conference Player of the Year put together the longest hitting streak (49 games) in college softball history. Her streak ended March 13 when she settled for a walk in the seventh inning and later scored to give FSW a 3-2 win over Hillsborough. Laudino finished the regular season batting .525 with four home runs, 35 RBIs and 42 stolen bases.

Kelsi Collins: This year’s Suncoast Conference Pitcher of the Year, the sophomore right-hander from Clermont went 24-0 in the regular season with two saves, a 1.05 ERA and 172 strikeouts. “Kelsi is amazing,” Iamurri said. “She has really stepped up on the mound when we needed her to. She has grown a long way this season and I am very proud of her.”

Owen Bowers: The freshman catcher/first baseman entered the postseason batting .412 with 16 home runs and 75 RBIs.

Joining Laudino, Collins and Bowers as first-team all-conference selections from FSW are freshmen Haley Ellefson and Lindsay Corbin and sophomores Madison Johnson, Paris Woods and Sarah Lawton. Three other Bucs were named to the All-Suncoast second team: freshmen Nativia Ellis and Pallas Potter and sophomore Alison Yawn.

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