Spring Sports in Full Swing

By Mike Ridaught

The spring sports’ season is in full swing and we’ve come out swinging too.

It’s hard to believe that the high school softball & baseball postseasons are both less than a month away. Even though we have increased our ‘live’ coverage of both sports, it still seems like the season has already flown by. Maybe that’s because we just finished our basketball coverage at the SIAA Tournament at The Rock in early March and we didn’t begin our coverage of softball & baseball until then.

So, yes a good portion of the season was already underway when we began our ‘live’ sports coverage of those spring sports – which is why it seems like the season has flown by. However, it’s certainly not because of our lack of ‘live’ broadcasts in March. We have done a pretty good job of ‘catching up.’

Since our first week of coverage on March 6 (Trenton at PK Yonge baseball), to our last baseball game yesterday (3/28 – Santa Fe College vs. FSCJ), we have broadcast 21 games in 22 days. Last week we broadcast a total of 12 baseball games from the Big Sun Challenge at Vanguard (Ocala). The week before that we were in Jacksonville for the Tournament of Champions. Coming in April, we’ll be adding audio and/or video coverage for a couple of district baseball & softball tournaments.

Plus, there’s a match-up of the top two baseball teams in the Prep Zone Power Poll on April 12 when Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) travels to Trinity Catholic (Ocala) on ESPN Radio (AM-1230 Gainesville & AM-900 Ocala). But up next, a key district game as Buchholz (Gainesville) travels to Forest (Ocala) in another Prep Zone top 20 game on the last Friday of April. That game will air on Sports Radio 850 (WRUF-AM 850 Gainesville). Buchholz just defeated Forest on Tuesday night, 1-0, as both pitchers threw a two-hitter. It should be a great game again in Marion County. What a great way to end the month of March. Both of those games will also be streamed ‘live’ online. More info coming soon…

Dusty Rhodes

Two weeks ago, we got the chance to see Providence (Jacksonville), which has three D-1 pitchers on its roster, at the Tournament of Champions in Jacksonville. The first game that we broadcast was played at the University of North Florida and featured two former Ospreys who are now head coaches – Palatka is coached by Matt McCool & Providence is coached by Mac Mackiewitz (both of whom played under future Hall of Fame coach Dusty Rhodes). The tournament featured teams who had won a state baseball championship in the past. Palatka last won a state baseball title in 1975, but Providence (2008) and defending state champions North Florida Christian (2A) and Bishop Verot (Fort Myers) (3A) each won one recently.

We also got the opportunity to broadcast a couple of games from the Baseball Grounds in downtown Jacksonville (home of the Jacksonville Suns) on the final day of the tournament. In the championship game, NFC led the entire game and took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the last inning against Bishop Verot, but the defending champs rallied and the Vikings won the game, 3-2.

We headed to the Big Sun Challenge at Vanguard (Ocala) just two days later. We had a great time during Marion County’s spring break. We broadcast three games the first day, three the next, three on Wednesday & two games, including the championship on Thursday. Trinity Catholic (Ocala), which won the tournament in 2005 the last time they were there, went 4-0 to win the tournament. The Celtics also set a school record with their 14th win in row. Looking ahead, a Williston-Trinity Catholic game in the state playoffs would be a great match-up. The Red Devils are led by University of Florida signee Max White.

But there’s still plenty of time to enjoy what’s left of the regular season. We plan on sprinkling in a couple of more Santa Fe College baseball games too. The Saints are loaded. They have transfers on their roster from Florida, Tennessee, NC State, Georgia Tech, UNF and the University of Central Florida. The Saints have an eye-popping 2.03 team ERA. In fact, six of their pitchers entered the game against FSCJ with an ERA of under 2.00 with no less than eight games pitched. But they’re currently in a battle with the College of Central Florida as both entered the final Wednesday of the month with a 10-2 record and tied atop of the Mid-Florida Conference standings. The two will meet again next Friday, April 6, in Ocala, followed by a game in Gainesville on Friday, April 20. We plan on broadcasting both games and will have broadcast info for the two games confirmed soon.

Happy Easter everyone!