The Prep Zone Power Poll powered by Strive Fitness – 2018 Baseball Poll #1 (PRESEASON)

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Nationally-ranked Providence (Jacksonville) starts out on top; total of 37 teams receive votes

GAINESVILLE – North Florida and North Central Florida are hot beds for baseball in the Sunshine State.

Last year, three area teams won a high school baseball state title, while four others finished as state runners-up.

One of those teams was not Providence (Jacksonville), which is loaded with D-I talent and has a chance to win its first state title since 2012. For that reason, the Stallions are a unanimous selection as the top overall team in The Prep Zone Power Poll preseason rankings.

Providence, which lost to eventual Class 4A state runner-up Pensacola Catholic, 3-2, in the 2017 Regional Final, has one of the top players in the area in Florida State signee Alec Sanchez (.411, career-best 8 HRs), along with Florida commits Nathan Hickey (.326) and Carson Beck (.484), and South Carolina commit Tyler Callihan (.359, 10 doubles).

The Stallions (9-1), who received all six first-place votes, are ranked 11th nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25.Providence

The No. 2 team in the all-classification regional rankings also did not advance to Fort Myers, but it is a program with recent success in the postseason, including four trips to regional play in the past five years and two state semifinal appearances in the past three years.

Forest (Ocala), which is coming off a district title and a loss to Wharton (Tampa) in last year’s 8A regional semifinals, is ranked second. They return shortstop Grant Grodi (.500, 3 HRs, 23 RBIs) and senior pitcher Noah Utegg (4-1, 0.87 ERA) from last year’s state playoff team.

The 2nd-ranked Wildcats (10-1) are ranked sixth in MaxPreps’ Class 8A state rankings.

Bolles (Jacksonville), which won the Class 5A state title last season, is ranked third.

The Bulldogs (9-2) have the top player in the Jacksonville area in junior 2-way player Hunter Barco (7-2, 1.84 ERA, 56 Ks, 57 IP; .303, 4 HR, 18 RBI). He also has eight state playoff wins in two seasons.

The ‘Dogs already have wins against No. 17 Sandalwood (Jacksonville), defending 7A state champion Nease (Ponte Vedra), 8A state semifinalist Sarasota, and last year’s 3A state runner-up University Christian (Jacksonville)

Class 7A Creekside (St. Johns), which has three state semifinal appearances in the past five years but was upset in last year’s district semifinals, is ranked fourth, while 8A Buchholz (Gainesville) rounds out the top five.

Jacksonville schools Mandarin (9A) and Trinity Christian (4A) are tied for sixth, while University Christian is ranked eighth.

The No. 8 Christians (8-4), who lost to Canterbury (Fort Myers) in last year’s 3A state championship game, have wins against No. 17 Sandalwood (Jacksonville) and defending 7A state champion Nease (Ponte Vedra), which is tied for 20th with Nature Coast (Brooksville).

Darien Smith, a JU signee, is back for UCS, along with top hitters Garrison James (.364), Gage Dixon (.362), Dalton Hathcox (.349), Ryan Meister (.342) and Aaron Bentley (.338).

Fernandina Beach is ranked ninth, while Ponte Vedra rounds out the top 10.

Defending Class 1A state champion Trenton is receiving votes and just missed the top 20, while 1A state runner-up Madison County received one vote.

University (Orange City), the Class 9A state runners-up, is also receiving votes.

The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, basketball, baseball & softball teams (regardless of FHSAA classification) across 26 counties in North Florida (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties). It is voted on weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters.

THE PREP ZONE POWER POLL – 2018 BASEBALL POLL #1 (PRESEASON RANKINGS)
(School, followed by classification, first place votes, last year’s record, 2018 record through 3/18, and total voting points)
1. Providence (Jacksonville) (4A) (6) (23-6) (9-1) – 120
2. Forest (Ocala) (8A) (16-12) (10-1) – 100
3. Bolles (Jacksonville) (5A) (21-10) (9-2) – 97
4. Creekside (St. Johns) (7A) (17-7) (8-1) – 80
5. Buchholz (Gainesville) (8A) (12-13) (8-2) – 72
6T. Mandarin (Jacksonville) (9A) (16-9) (8-2) – 66
6T. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (4A) (18-8) (6-2) – 66
8. University Christian (Jacksonville) (3A) (21-9) (8-4) – 65
9. Fernandina Beach (5A) (18-7) (7-1) – 58
10. Ponte Vedra (6A) (17-11) (7-2) – 57
11. Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (5A) (25-4) (6-3) – 44
12. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (9A) (15-12) (7-3) – 40
13. New Smyrna Beach (7A) (19-9) (7-4) – 39
14T. Springstead (Spring Hill) (6A) (24-4) (8-1) – 30
14T. P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) (5A) (11-12) (10-2) – 30
16. Dunnellon (6A) (17-11) (7-1) – 29
17T. Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (9A) (23-4) (6-3) – 28
17T. Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (4A) (15-9) (5-2) – 28
19. Williston (1A) (17-9) (10-2) – 27
20T. Nease (Ponte Vedra) (7A) (21-11) (4-5) – 21
20T. Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville) (5A) (19-10) (8-1) – 21
Also receiving votes: Trenton (1A) (27-1) (7-2) – 18, Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (13-15) (8-3) – 17, University (Orange City) (9A) (25-7) (7-3) – 14, Oakleaf (Orange Park) (8A) (18-8) (6-2-1) – 13, Father Lopez (Daytona Beach) (7A) (11-15-1) (8-2) – 11, Taylor (Pierson) (5A) (21-6) (6-1) – 10, Columbia (Lake City) (7A) (15-13) (7-4) – 9, Terry Parker (Jacksonville) (6A) (16-10) (8-2) – 9, Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (18-10) (7-3) – 9, Gainesville (7A) (19-7) (5-4) – 8, East Ridge (Clermont) (8A) (16-10) (6-3) – 6, St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) (3A) (16-11) (7-3) – 6, The Villages (5A) (16-10) (9-1) – 5, Paxon (Jacksonville) (6A) (13-13) (7-3) – 3, Bradford (Starke) (5A) (5-16) (6-4) – 3, Madison County (1A) (19-11) (3-6) – 1.