The Seffner Christian Academy softball team is off to its best start in school history with an overall record of 13-2. According to maxpreps.com, the Crusaders are ranked fifth in the state of Florida at the 2A level. The Florida High School Athletic Association had them ranked as high as second in the state in 2A, which is the highest ranking in the school’s history as well.
“They show a lot of poise in pressure situations,” said Head Coach Mike Cates. “It’s an overall reflection of the leaders, the captains and the seniors. We don’t seem to get too down or too up. We seem to be really mentally strong this year, as opposed to years past. They really believe that they’re not out of any game.”
The Crusaders have had a lot of recent success, winning their district last season and in 2019. Arguably, Seffner Christian’s best team was the 2020 version that had its season cut short after 10 games due to COVID-19. Former Seffner Christian star Christina Wellen currently plays for the University of Florida. The Crusaders made it all the way to the regional final in 2019 and 2021 but came up a little bit short. This year, the team has dreams of having its best finish in their school’s history, claiming the state title.
“Our main goal as a team is to win districts, regionals and eventually states but overall just to do our best for God’s glory,” said senior infielder Payton Aldridge. “My goal for myself is to be an encouragement to my teammates and to leave my mark as a senior.”
According to Cates, his team has a mixture of seniors and young talent. The team had four players graduate from last year’s squad and currently has five seniors. Both of the starting pitchers, Shannon Kendall and Jalynn Fredman, are sophomores. Senior captain Anna Burnside leads the team with a .489 batting average and .545 on-base percentage. The catcher is also a leader on the field and has signed to play at the University of Buffalo. She is close with her teammates and is ready to help lead them to where they want to go.
“Moments that stick out in my mind are whenever I see my teammates have the fire they need to win,” said Burnside. “In any game we play, you can always find them getting pumped up. The friendships and memories you make along the way are what makes this game worth playing. Playing for Seffner Christian has made my love for the game grow more than it has ever done before.”
Seffner Christian is the number one overall seed heading into its district tournament in early May, which it will host. Winning the district tournament for the third time in four years will be a big step in the Crusaders reaching their goal. Senior shortstop Amber Rodriguez is playing for her teammates and the memories along the way.
“I enjoy playing softball at Seffner Christian Academy because it is a Christian school and our team is fun, supportive and competitive,” she said. “So far, this season has been full of a lot of laughter and a lot of success on the field. Our goals for the remainder of the season are to all rise to our fullest potential. My personal goal is to improve every time I step out on the field.”