JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Softball has undergone the biggest change among any high school sport over the past 25 years — fast pitch to slow pitch.
That’s why the sport nearly aligns perfectly with our window for our News4Jax All-25 project, a look at the best high school players from the period of 1995-2019.
Softball has held fast pitch state championships since 1988, but the sport made the full conversion from slow pitch to fast in 1994 as part of a move to create more opportunities for girls in college. Fast pitch was what colleges were playing. But imagine going from underhanded slow pitch one year, to staring down an ace like Kellie Wilkerson the next.
That’s about as seismic of a change as it gets.
The area has had its share of four-year first-team all-city selections in that 25-year span, names like Lisa Lofton, Brittani Phillips, Kendall Reid and Wilkerson, all of whom you’ll find on our All-25 squad.
News4Jax All-25 coverage
Feb. 29: Baseball
Feb. 22: Girls basketball
Feb. 15: Boys basketball
Feb. 9: Football
Note: The All-25 series will resume March 29.
We’ve seen two players win the Miss Softball award (Erin Schuppert and Wilkerson) and two others (Wilkerson and Sydney Wright) earn Gatorade state player of the year honors.
Wilkerson remains in a league of her own, earning all-city top player honors in the same sport all four years, a feat accomplished by just two other athletes in the modern era (Amer Delic in tennis and Shante Williams in girls basketball).
Local softball has perked up on a national level in recent years, too.
Ponte Vedra climbed to No. 4 in MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national poll in 2014, a ranking, at the time, that was superb for area softball. Oakleaf, one of the area’s newest public schools, wound up surpassing that in late March 2016, rising to No. 1 in the country. It’s a feat unmatched by area teams.
As far as it relates to championships, softball has been a challenging sport for area programs to thrive in. Only 12 times have area teams won state titles in the fast pitch era.
Public school teams from Baker, Clay, Columbia, St. Johns and Union counties have brought home titles. Only three private schools from the area have won crowns, Duval schools Bishop Snyder, Eagle’s View and Trinity Christian.
Among area coaches, the First Coast has had some good ones.
Larry and Vicky Rogers at First Coast were the first of the fast pitch coaching powers, leading the Buccaneers to the state runner-up spot in Class 4A in 1994. Sandalwood’s Carlyce Cononie crossed the 500-win barrier in 2014. University Christian’s Keith Stroud passed 500 wins in 2015. Cononie and Stroud may be unmatched locally in total wins when adding in their successes coaching multiple other sports like basketball and volleyball.
Former Paxon and First Coast High coach Chrisanne Hooten reached the 400-win milestone in 2017 before retiring. Mandarin’s Natalia Gonzalez, the Mustangs head coach since 2003, picked up her 300th win in 2017 and has been one of the steadiest around. Englewood’s Cynthia Bateh is well into the upper 300s.
At 288 wins in high school, Fletcher’s Jerry Shepherd, who has coached at Bishop Kenny and Ponte Vedra, is closing in on the 300-win milestone.
Two warrant special mention, Eagle’s View co-head coaches Chip Cribb and Willie Evans. The duo was with the 1A Warriors for a brief period of time, but they were the most successful pair in area history, winning three straight state crowns over 2008-10.
As with previous All-25 teams, input from multiple area coaches went in to helping determine the team. All-city or all-state accolades, longevity, team and opponent quality were major factors in putting this together. College and post-high school success can accentuate a resume, but isn’t a requirement. With the exception of players from 1995, players had to play in the area for two seasons to be considered.
Jennifer Harman, Bartram Trail
One of several coaches on the Bears staff who have been at the school since it opened in 2000, Harman has built and kept a softball power thriving in St. Johns County. The former First Coast High and UNF product entered the season at 455-99, all at Bartram. Harman led the Bears to back-to-back state championships in 2008-09 and remains the only area public school to win consecutive fast-pitch crowns. Bartram has missed the playoffs just once (2014). Harman’s dad, Louis, has coached alongside her since 2006. Harman would likely be on one of the top two teams in the All-25 as a player had she played longer under this criteria.
Matt Lewis, Clay
Lewis is the area’s longest-tenured coach who began with the Blue Devils in 1997 and entered this year with a 458-203 career record. He led Clay to the first fast-pitch championship by an area school when the Blue Devils edged powerhouse Bartow, 2-1 in the Class 4A title game in 2001. He’s led teams back to the final four since then, including as recently as 2018.
Christina Thompson, Oakleaf
She has been with the Knights since the program opened and coached three seasons at Boca Raton prior to that. She entered the season at 254-85 and has never missed the state playoffs with the Knights. Her tenure includes four state semifinal berths since 2015, a state championship in 2017 and a state runner-up finish in 2018. The Knights have also won back-to-back Kissimmee Klassic tournaments, one of the most prestigious events in the state, all while playing what has been one of Florida’s most unforgiving schedules since 2017. Her father, Rob, has coached alongside her the past five seasons. As a player, Thompson helped lead Clay to the state title in 2001.
P Cindy Hudgins
High school: Clay
Final season: 2003
Notable: One of the best arms in fast-pitch arms in area history. Three-time first-team all-city selection. Second team selection as a freshman. Area’s top player as a senior. Was 79-23 with 754 Ks, 0.42 ERA in her career. Helped lead Blue Devils to Class 3A state championship in 2001, the first fast-pitch crown for an area program. Could hit it, too. Had a .456 average as a senior. Was 2-2 with 6 Ks in 22.2 IP in her college career.
P Katie Lawrence
High school: West Nassau
Final season: 2006
Notable: One of the few players in this window who were multi-year top players and an excellent two-way star. Three-time all-city player of the year. Three-time first-team all-state selection. Was 27-4 (0.20 ERA) as a senior, 19-4 as a junior and 21-1 as a sophomore. A slugger, too, she had seasons of .459, .465 and .500. Strictly a hitter in college.
P Heather Schlichtman
High school: Orange Park
Final season: 2000
Notable: Three-time first-team all-city selection and area’s top player in 2000, Schlichtman was flat-out imposing to get in the box against. Teams just couldn’t score on her. She went 17-3 with 285 Ks, 0.15 ERA as a senior, 15-2-1 with 0.10 ERA as a junior and 13-1 with 210 Ks and a 0.07 ERA as a sophomore. Remains one of the most dominant hurlers in Arkansas history, including No. 1 in career wins (73), ERA (1.59), shutouts (26) and Ks (886), and second or third in various other categories.
P Kellie Wilkerson
High school: Mandarin
Final season: 1998
College: Mississippi State
Notable: One of the most dominant players, regardless of sport, to play on the First Coast. Four-time city player of the year. Became area’s first Miss Softball winner in 1997. The lefthander was 85-27 in her tenure and struck out 1,121 batters. She was just as dominant as a hitter. Wilkerson’s worst season at the plate was .551 as a sophomore. When she graduated Mississippi State, Wilkerson was the owner or co-owner of 26 program records. First- or second-team All-American selection each year in college. Played professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch League before retiring in 2008. Currently an assistant coach at Portland State.
C Kristin Kirkland
High school: Middleburg
Final season: 1999
College: Gulf Coast State College
Notable: Hit .445 (20 RBI) as a junior and .455 (34 RBI) as a sophomore for her best seasons at the plate. Mentioned by several coaches as the most difficult player to try and run on that they’ve seen. Three-time first-team all-city selection. Second team All-American in the National Junior College Athletic Association in 2001. Injuries prevented her from playing beyond her time at Gulf Coast State.
IF Katie Kelly
High school: West Nassau
Final season: 2007
Notable: Three-time first-team all-city selection and a second team pick as a freshman. Scored 109 runs over her final three seasons and belted 21 career HRs. Her final season, Kelly didn’t strike out once. Ranks first in JU history in doubles (38) and second in career hits (207), as well as top 10 in numerous other categories.
IF Reedy Davenport
High school: Bartram Trail
Final season: 2018
College: Florida Gulf Coast
Notable: Appeared on all-city team all four seasons, her final three as a first-team selection. Area’s top player as a senior. Had seasons of .427, .509, .480 and .551 at the plate. Drove in 144 runs. Belted 23 career HRs. Hit .291 with 4 HRs, 24 RBI in her first college season, earning Atlantic Sun Conference freshman of the year honors. Hitting .364 with 14 RBI this season.
IF Kayli Kvistad
High school: Columbia
Final season: 2014
Notable: Four-year player for the Tigers. Played in 119 career games and was 193 for 321 at the plate (.601). Belted 44 career home runs, a program record. Had 179 RBI. Struck out just 17 times in her career. Helped lead Columbia to Class 6A state championship in 2013. Ranks fifth in Gators’ history with 193 RBI. First in walks (186).
IF Kendall Reid
High school: Mandarin
Final season: 2015
Notable: A four-year player for the Mustangs who was strong from the moment she set foot on the field. Began career as a catcher before moving to the infield, where she played the corners. All-city selection all four seasons. Belted 43 career home runs, one behind Kayli Kvistad for most in area history. Hit .517 as a senior (14 HR, 49 RBI), .542 as a junior (12 HR, 52 RBI), .418 (9 HR) and .419 (8 HR, 38 RBI). Injuries prevented her from lengthy career in college.
OF Leah Armstrong
High school: Episcopal
Final season: 2000
College: Florida State
Notable: Appeared on all-city team four times, the final two as a first-team selection. Hit .528 as a junior and stole 49 bases. Followed that with a .536-average, 36-stolen base campaign as Eagles reached the state semifinals. Covered a substantial amount of ground in the outfield for Eagles. Has an award named in her honor at Episcopal.
OF Lisa Lofton
High school: First Coast
Final season: 1999
College: Lynn University
Notable: A four-time first-team all-city selection, two in the infield, two in the outfield. Hit .532 with 32 stolen bases as a freshman and .556 with 38 stolen bases as a sophomore. Hit .466 and .435 as a junior and senior, respectively. Had 25 stolen bases over two seasons at Lynn and finished career with a .333 average. Sunshine State all-conference selection both seasons (first and second team honors).
OF Michelle Moultrie
High school: Mandarin
Final season: 2008
Notable: Moultrie is better known for her post-high school career at Florida and with the U.S. national team, but she was an exceptional high school player at Mandarin. Hit .404 as a sophomore, .400 as a junior and .466 with 3 HRs as a senior. First-team all-city selection each of those seasons. Among her laundry list of college achievements was earning 2012 SEC player of the year at Florida and a .385 career hitter with 116 RBI, 41 doubles and 22 HRs. Has been member of Team USA for years, winning Pan Am gold medal three times (2011, ’17, ’19).
UT Sydney Wright
High school: Bishop Snyder
Final season: 2013
Notable: Three-time first-team all-city selection. Area’s top player as a junior and senior. Was 52-11 in the circle over her final two seasons with 558 Ks and an era that stayed below 0.98 both seasons. Hit .430 over those seasons with 18 HR and 85 RBI. Gatorade Florida state player of the year as a senior. Took Cardinals to consecutive Class 3A title games.
P Katie Brosky, Palatka, 2003
Why she’s here: Area’s top player in her final season, she went 23-5 with a 0.15 ERA and set the single season strikeout record at 471. Had 1,002 Ks during her career. Class 4A player of the year in 2003. Went 22-7 at Seminole Community College before transfer to UNF. Had 22 saves, 19 wins in her career with the Ospreys.
P Avery Geehr, Ponte Vedra, 2014
Why she’s here: Three-time first-team all-city selection and area’s top player as a senior. Was 72-10 in her career with more than 600 Ks and a pair of trips to the state semifinals. Logged 59.1 innings during her freshman season at Georgetown with 18 Ks.
IF Baylee Goddard, Oakleaf, 2019
Why she’s here: Appeared on all-city team four times, two of those on the first team. Area player of the year as a senior. Two-time first-team all-state selection. Career .405 hitter with 86 runs, 76 RBI, .495 on-base percentage. Hitting .314 with 12 RBI, 4 HR. OBP (.586) leads team, thanks in part to 8 walks, 15 hit by pitches.
C Madison Kennedy, Baker County, 2017
Why she’s here: A three-time first-team all-city pick, Kennedy was a four-year player for the Wildcats. She was a career .410 hitter and belted 32 home runs and helped lead Baker County to the 2015 state championship. Kennedy had 125 RBI, scored 109 runs and never struck out more than 10 times in a season. Spent freshman season at Florida State before transfer to JU. Hitting .250 with the Dolphins this season.
P Molly Manning, Bartram Trail, 2008
Why she’s here: A four-year player who spent her first two seasons at Nease. Hit .400 and .463 in her final two seasons at Bartram. Helped lead Bears to the first fast-pitch state championship in St. Johns County history in 2008. Was 52-15 in the circle during her career. Had 21 wins at Villanova and hit a career-best .277 during her sophomore season.
P Brittani Phillips, Arlington CD, 2004
Why she’s here: A four-time first-team all-city selection and an overpowering force during ACD’s early seasons. Led Apaches to final four as a freshman (17-2, 0.42 ERA). Threw 12 no-hitters and five perfect games between her sophomore and junior seasons. Class 1A player of the year as a junior. Three-time first-team all-state pick.
IF Sherri Rabenold, Bartram Trail, 2003
Why she’s here: Exceptional athlete across several sports, softball was her best. Three-time first-team all-city selection. A career .423 hitter, she hit .506 in the school’s first season in 2001. St. Johns County player of the decade for the 2000s. First-team All-American at Seminole State and a two-time All-American at Rollins.
C Jordan Roberts, Suwannee, 2016
Why she’s here: A four-year starter for the Bulldogs, she hit .428 with 112 RBI, 34 doubles and 34 HRs in her career. Belted 14 HRs in her final season. Struck out just 22 times in her career. Gainesville Sun’s first-team all-city pick three consecutive seasons. A .265 hitter in college with 23 HR, 103 RBI.
P Ryan Rogge, Orange Park, 2006
Why she’s here: Two-time first-team all-city selection. Struck out more than 300 batters in each of those seasons. Played four seasons at Western Kentucky and still ranks in the top five in multiple career categories, including third in Ks (521).
P Erin Schuppert, Fletcher, 2009
Why she’s here: Was on all-city team twice, including earning area’s top player honor in her final season. Posted one of the best individual seasons for a hurler in area history, going 31-1 with 323 Ks and an 0.65 ERA as team finished as state runner-up. Miss Softball in 2009. Played one season at Florida before transferring to Boston, where she went 20-17 with 180 Ks, 3.47 ERA in three seasons.
P Kelsey Sweatt, Oakleaf, 2017
Why she’s here: Two-time city player of the year was a contender for a pitching spot on the first team. A four-year player for the Knights, she was 57-20 with 694 Ks during her career. Went 56.1 consecutive scoreless innings during final season, the bulk of that coming in the playoffs. Helped lead Oakleaf to state title in 2017. Was 19-4 with 145 Ks, 1.64 ERA last season at West Florida. Is 6-2 with 3 saves, 59 Ks this season.
P Haylie Wilson, Bolles, 2011
Why she’s here: Appeared on all-city team four season, three on the first team. City player of the year in her final season. Struck out 646 over her final three seasons. Led Bolles to state runner-up finishes in 2009-10. Holds every major pitching record with the Bulldogs. Also a very good hitter in high school. Finished with 25 wins in college at Louisiana Monroe, a total that ranks eighth in program history. Had 110 appearances, which ranks fourth.
P Taylor Wright, Bishop Snyder, 2008
Why she’s here: Three-time all-city selection, including twice on the first team. Hit .455 as a senior and .419 as a sophomore in her two best seasons at the plate. Struck out 558 batters from the circle those seasons, 253 of those when she helped lead Cardinals to Class 2A state title in 2006. Was Class 3A player of the year as a senior. A career .278 hitter at Winthrop with 34 RBI, 13 doubles, 4 HRs.
Pos., Player, High school, Final year
OF Brooke Barlow, Bartram Trail, 2015
P Taylor Bauman, Atlantic Coast, 2017
P Karla Beasley, Yulee, 2014
C Holly Bowyer, Lee, 1996
UT Amanda Brown, First Coast, 1997
P Danielle Brown, Trinity Christian, 2003
IF Savannah Brown, Suwannee, 2018
C Kristin Brown, Eagle’s View, 2010
C Jennifer Byrd, Sandalwood, 2000
P Margaret Carter, Palatka, 2007
P Riley Carter, Mandarin, 2011
IF Melinda Collins, Sandalwood, 1998
IF Amanda Cox, Ridgeview, 2004
P Paige Curtis, Atlantic Coast, 2013
IF Victoria Daddis, Creekside, 2013
OF Scotland David, Ponte Vedra, 2019
P Madisyn Davis, Oakleaf, 2019
IF Emily Dixon, West Nassau, 2018
IF Briana Durden, West Nassau, 2005
C Stephanie Farabee, Arlington CD, 2002
IF Kacie Feaster, Trinity Christian, 2003
C Jennifer Harman, First Coast, 1995
C Tracy Jester, First Coast, 1996
P Stella Johns, Lee, 1998
C Ashley Johnson, Bradford, 2012
P Heather Johnson, Orange Park, 1998
P Kallie Jones, Providence, 2018
IF Kacie Kelly, West Nassau, 2016
IF Clara Kendall, Mandarin, 2008
C Hallie Kern, Mandarin, 2019
UT Rebecca Koskey, Oakleaf, 2018
P Kalyn Loverich, Bartram Trail, 2010
P Lauren Martin, Stanton, 2005
P Megan Medley, Bartram Trail, 2003
IF Lindsay Nelson, Orange Park, 2000
IF Cylenia Norris, Sandalwood, 2002
P Lauren Morris, Episcopal, 2000
C/OF Alexis Novak, Bartram Trail, 2005
OF Maegan O’Brien, Bartram Trail, 2020
P Morgan O’Keefe, Mandarin, 2007
IF Savannah Parker, Bartram Trail, 2018
IF Ansley Paschal, Lee, 1997
IF Brooke Peaver, Fletcher, 2010
IF Kayanna Perez, Paxon, 2018
OF/C Stephanie Pilkington, Columbia, 2012
IF Morgan Podany, Ponte Vedra, 2015
OF Tera Powell, Clay, 2009
C Lauren Redfern, Sandalwood, 2001
UT Heather Roberts, University Christian, 2015
IF Amaya Ross, Trinity Christian, 2021
IF Katie Sambito, Providence, 2010
C Nikki Seebeck, Fletcher, 2004
IF Santoria Smalley, Lee, 1999
P Christal Stieb, Nease, 1999
IF Anna Tarpley, Sandalwood, 2013
OF Lexi Taylor, Orange Park, 2012
IF Christina Thompson, Clay, 2001
UT Prissie Walden, First Coast, 1999
IF Danielle Weaver, Bartram Trail, 2002
IF Monique White, Fletcher, 2004