There are often two sides to every story.
For Pace softball (17-5, 10-0 in District 1-6A), there are two sides to its leader, Payton Carpenter, who knows the perfect time to turn up the intensity and the right time to have a laugh… or several.
When it comes to competition, Carpenter doesn’t play around.
And when she is in the circle — where she has built a 14-3 record this season — she displays her vivid intensity through her mannerisms, according to Pace coach Amy Wolfenden.
“She just knows how to get her team going,” Wolfenden said. “She brings a sense of confidence with her when she walks on to the mound, or into the batters box. On the mound, she has this little thing where she snaps her wrist and just gets this look on her face… then you know its on.”
Carpenter has tallied 117 strikeouts, maintained a 2.00 ERA and allowed just 14 walks.
Hitting, she’s co-leader for total home runs (10) in Florida and has driven in 41 runs with a .521 batting average.
And while her teammates have found joy in Carpenter’s and Pace softball’s success, it’s Carpenter’s comedic side that has made her such a significant leader for the team.
“She is one of the funniest kids… you never know what she will come up with,” Wolfenden said. “Sometimes, she has all these different accents that she likes to talk in, and she will change them up all of a sudden. Sometimes it’s a country twang or a foreign accent. She keeps the team lighthearted and laughing. That’s probably my favorite characteristic of hers.
“But… she knows when to be serious and focused.”
Concentration will likely be required more frequently for the Patriots starting Thursday, when Pace plays the winner of Washington and Pine Forest in the District 1-6A semifinal as the regular season gives way to the postseason.
Teams will look to continue their winning ways into the postseason and lock up regional playoff bids by advancing to the district championship game.
For Gulf Breeze (21-2), which locked up the No. 1 seed in District 1-5A, play will begin on Tuesday night against the winner of Mosley and Arnold.
Riding the wave of the program’s best season, the Dolphins and head coach Sean Tomey have enjoyed the run but are ready for more success in the postseason.
“I think we are in a good position right now,” Tomey said. “We are doing a lot of things exactly how we’ve asked the girls to do them. The girls have prepared themselves to win a district tournament almost every day since the end of last season. They are hungry to accomplish something that we didn’t last year.”
Like Pace, the Dolphins will be led by a dual-threat athlete — Olivia Printiss — who’s shown she can impact the game from both the mound and at the plate.
It’s been the key to strong play for Gulf Breeze, a trait which has been contagious for the team.
“I’m incredibly proud of how well the kids have handled success… they’ve never let it go their heads,” Tomey said. “They come out every day to practice and improve. Because of that I think we have the opportunity to do something that’s never been done in Gulf Breeze softball history.”
Elsewhere in the Pensacola-area this week, the Tate Aggies and Navarre Raiders will travel over to Niceville for the District 1-7A tournament. Tate finished second in the district behind Niceville and will open against Crestview on Tuesday.
The District 1-4A tournament will take place in Marianna with the host Marianna Bulldogs facing defending Class 4A state champion West Florida at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Catholic will take on Walton at 4 p.m.
And the District 3-1A tournament will get underway on Monday at Freeport with Baker playing Holmes County and Northview taking on Freeport. No. 1 seed Jay will take on the Northview-Freeport winner on Tuesday.
District Tournament Schedules
Monday: 7 p.m. Fort Walton Beach vs. Navarre.
Tuesday: 5 p.m. Crestview vs. Tate; 7 p.m. G1 winner vs. No. 1 Niceville.
Thursday: 7 p.m. District Championship Game.
At Pine Forest
Tuesday: 4:30 p.m. Escambia vs. Pensacola High; 7 p.m. Washington vs. Pine Forest.
Thursday: 4:30 p.m. Escambia/PHS winner vs. Milton; 7 p.m. Washington/ Pine Forest winner vs. Pace.
Friday: 7 p.m. District championship game.
Monday: 5 p.m. Bay vs. Choctaw; 7 p.m. Mosley vs. Arnold.
Tuesday: 5 p.m. Bay/ Choctaw winner vs. Rutherford; 7 p.m. Mosley/ Arnold vs. Gulf Breeze.
Thursday: 7 p.m. District championship.
Tuesday: 4 p.m. Walton vs. Catholic; 6 p.m. West Florida vs. Marianna.
Thursday: 6 p.m. championship game.
Monday: 4 p.m. Baker vs. Holmes County; 6 p.m. Freeport vs. Northview.
Tuesday: 4 p.m. Chipley vs. Baker/Holmes County winner; 6 p.m. Jay vs. Freeport/Northview winner.
Thursday: 6 p.m. championship game.