Jill Semento knew it would take more than one season to transform the Lake-Sumter State College softball into a regular visitor to the postseason.
In her first season at the helm, Semento coached the Lakehawks to a 14-45 record and a 4-20 mark in the Mid-Florida Conference, regarded as one of the toughest leagues in the state.
As the second chapter of the Semento Era begins at LSSC, the coach believes the Lakehawks are on track to surpass last season and has the potential to produce one of the best seasons in school history. Semento believes LSSC can win at least 20 games and, earn a spot in the state tournament.
“Last year was a learning experience for myself and my players,” Semento said. “It was my first year as coach and the players didn’t know what I expected and how I wanted to play the game. Now, the sophomore have a year under their belt with me and they can help get the freshman on board a little quicker.
“There were a lot of nerves with last year’s team, but this year’s group has a better ballplayer attitude. I like this group.”
The Lakehawks kicked off their season with three games on Saturday in a kickoff tournament in Clearwater. LSSC lost to Eastern Florida State College (formerly Brevard Community College) and national powerhouse Indian River State College, but picked up a 7-6 win against Gordon State College.
LSSC (2-3) opened its home schedule on Feb. 4 with a doubleheader split against Indian River State College at the National Training Center in Clermont.
In the opener, Semento found out just how far her team has come when the Lakehawks stunned the Pioneers 6-4. Melissa Webb picked up the win with a six-strikeout performance and Kayla Fuller blasted a two-run walk-off homer.
“That’s probably one of the biggest wins in school history,” Semento said. “I’m so proud of these girls.”
In the nightcap, Indian River exacted revenge with a 9-1 win. Taylor Douglas hit a home run to account the Lakehawks’ only run.
Semento believes this year’s team will be more balanced on offense, with more power up and down the lineup. The Lakehawks have more depth than in previous seasons, making the team less prone to slumps, which often begat losing streaks.
“Last year, we had one player who could hit the ball out on any pitch,” Semento said. “This year, we have at least four players who hit it out. In addition, we have players who can start a rally with base hits. We’re definitely an improved team over last year.
“We’ll find out how much better over the course of the season.”
Semento, an All-State player while at Umatilla, said she developed a plan to grow the softball program when she accepted the job with the Lakehawks before the 2013 season. She knew it would take time to learn how to find the players she felt could help the program and recruit them.
“I never recruited players before I came to LSSC,” Semento said. “I went through the recruiting process as a player. I had to learn how to sell a program to young players, but I found out that I was one of the selling points for the softball team.
“A lot of girls wanted to play for a young coach. When I asked players why they came to LSSC, many of them told me that I was the reason.”