Florence catcher Chelsea Kehr remembers the parade fondly.

There were fire engines, police cars and a party at someone's house in the township that encompasses 9.65 square miles between Bristol and Bordentown. And they were all there to celebrate the NJSIAA Group 1 state softball championship won by Kehr and her teammates last June.

"We rode around the town in a bus with our heads out the windows and cars honking their horns," Kehr said. "There were flashing lights and people on front porches waving at us. The town came out to see us.

"Florence is very sports-oriented. It's a big deal when a team wins a state championship. It'd be amazing to have it again this year."

Amazing

is a good word, considering that that this year's team is devoid of senior leadership and has three freshmen in the starting lineup.

However, amazing doesn't mean impossible.

Kehr was a sophomore when the Flashes won the crown. She and fellow juniors Carly Maple, Katie Schreck and Kelly Garganio possess that championship game experience, which is important when playing tough opponents.

The problem, their coach says, is that the younger players haven't integrated into a unified team yet.

In a crucial Burlington County Freedom Division game on May 2 against New Egypt, for example, the Flashes were leading by 4-0 in the seventh inning when they committed three consecutive errors.

The Warriors (7-0) won, 5-4, to take sole possession of first place, and Florence (6-1) dropped to second.

"The experience of [winning] a championship is good," Florence coach George Chwastyk said. "They weren't awed by the New Egypt game. They just didn't finish.

"The more the separation of grades there is, the harder it is to play together. That separation takes you out of the whole group.

"They're progressing. It's just taking a little more time to play consistently well."

Chwastyk has reason to be optimistic.

The Flashes (11-6 overall) are the No. 2 seed in Central Jersey in the NJSIAA tournament and are scheduled to host Keansburg, the seventh seed, Thursday.

Kehr, a take-charge type of player, has worked well with pitcher Garganio to get batters out. In addition, Kehr has a batting average of .592 with 22 RBIs. The honors student also has slammed three home runs, nine doubles, and two triples.

Maple has played well at first base, Schreck has been doing well in left field, and sophomore Emily Million has impressed coaches, players and fans with her speed and arm strength in center field.

"Emily has thrown out three players at the plate and one on third base," Chwastyk said. "Our goal is really to get to the Central Jersey final, get that win and go against South Jersey again."

Contact staff writer Bill Iezzi

at 856-779-3826

or biezzi@phillynews.com.