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Prep Zone Power Poll – 2014 Baseball Poll – Final

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Clay 2Gainesville – In the end, the selection for #1 in the final baseball Prep Zone Power Poll came down to an entire body of work.

Clay (Green Cove Springs), which advanced to its first state title game in school history, moved up one spot and edged 1A state champion Williston for the top ranking.  The Blue Devils (23-8) knocked off No. 12 Baker County, No. 5 Ponte Vedra, the defending state champion, and nationally-ranked #5 Mosley (Lynn Haven) in the Class 5A state playoffs.

They defeated a 25-5 Rockledge team in the state semifinals, 3-0, before falling to perennial contender Tampa Jesuit (26-6), 5-2, in the title game.  It was the final game for Clay’s Rob Thompson, who stepped down after 26 seasons as head coach.

During the regular season, Clay also had wins against four teams that finished in the top 20 (#9 Episcopal, #10 Trenton, #12 Baker County & #17 Fleming Island).  They received three of the seven first-place votes.

But the Red Devils’ resume was also impressive.

Williston (25-4) posted back-to-back 4-0 shutouts over Paxon and Chipley in the 1A semifinals and championship game, respectively.  It was the first state title in any sport since 1923, when Williston won the state baseball title.

Pitching and defense were the key for Williston, which allowed only one run in six postseason games.  The Red Devils only had two wins against top 20 competition, but they swept No. 4 Trinity Catholic (Ocala), which won the 4A state title.  They moved up three spots to No. 2 and received two first-place votes.

The other two first-place votes belonged to Creekside (St. Johns), which fell from No. 1 to third in the final poll.  The Knights (26-5) got back to the final four for the second consecutive season, but they fell to eventual 6A state champion Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens), 4-3, in the state semifinals.

Their resume was the most impressive during the season with eight wins over teams that finished in the final poll – #1 Clay, #6 Providence, #7 Bartram Trail (four times), which shutout Williston 7-0 in early April, #15 Stanton and #17 Fleming Island.

Trinity Catholic (23-8) moved up four spots to fourth.

The Celtics won their first state baseball title in school history with a 3-1 win over two-time defending state champion Pensacola Catholic in the 4A title game.  In fact, it was the first-ever state baseball title in Marion County history.

After falling to No. 18 The Villages in the 4A-District 6 championship game, the Celtics won three postseason games on the road to advance to the state semifinals, where they knocked off Bishop Verot (Ft. Myers), which was making its fourth consecutive appearance in the final four, 2-1.

Last year’s 5A state champion, Ponte Vedra, rounds out the top five.  The Sharks (20-9) defeated top-ranked Clay twice this season, but they lost to the Blue Devils in the regional semifinals, 3-2.

Defending state runners-up Providence (Jacksonville), which won the 3A state title in 2012, dropped two spots and finished sixth.  The Stallions (22-8) lost at eventual 3A state champion and nationally-ranked North Florida Christian (Tallahassee), 3-2, in 3A regional final.

Bartram Trail (St. Johns) remained seventh.  The Bears (19-10) lost a one-run game (6A regional semifinals) and a two-run game (6A-District 4 championship game) to No. 3 Creekside in the postseason.

Moving up six spots to No. 8 is DeLand.  The Bulldogs (20-11) entered the regional playoffs as a district runner-up, but they advanced all the way to the Class 8A state semifinals where they lost to eventual state champion and nationally-ranked South Dade (Homestead), 1-0.

Episcopal (Jacksonville) remained ninth.  The Eagles (19-11) advanced to their fourth consecutive regional final, falling to 4A state runner-up Pensacola Catholic for the fourth straight time.

Defending 1A state champion Trenton, which dropped four spots, rounds out the top 10.  The Tigers’ (21-4) bid for back-to-back state titles ended in a 9-5 loss at Lafayette (Mayo) in the regional final.

Hernando (Brooksville) (23-5) is ranked 11th, followed by Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (20-8), Eustis (20-9), Lafayette (17-8) and Stanton (Jacksonville) (19-7) at No. 15.  Mandarin (Jacksonville) (19-7) is ranked No. 16, followed by Fleming Island (Orange Park) (18-8), The Villages (16-9), Taylor (Pierson) (16-10) and 2A regional finalist Aucilla Christian (Monticello) (17-12) at No. 20.

North Marion (Sparr) heads up the list of teams receiving votes.

They defeated Belleview (14-8), which defeated Citrus in the regional quarterfinals for its first playoff victory in 17 years, in the 5A regional semifinals, 8-7, and advanced to their second regional final.  The Colts (15-14) were one out from advancing to their first state semifinal in school history before falling to Sunlake (Land O’ Lakes), 6-3, in nine innings.

Both Marion County teams received votes, along with Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto) (20-3), Forrest (Jacksonville) (17-8), which earned its first playoff appearance since 1972, and Trinity Christian (Deltona) (12-16), which lost to eventual 2A state champion Brito Miami Private in the state semifinals.  It was the Eagles seventh consecutive trip to the FHSAA Baseball Finals.

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.

Prep Zone Power Poll – 2014 Baseball Poll #9 – FINAL POLL
(School, followed by first-place votes, classification, final record and total voting points)

1.  Clay (Green Cove Springs) (3) (5A) (23-8) – 134
2.  Williston (2) (1A) (25-4) – 131
3.  Creekside (St. Johns) (2) (6A) (26-5) – 129
4.  Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (4A) (23-8) – 118
5.  Ponte Vedra (5A) (20-9) – 114
6.  Providence (Jacksonville) (3A) (22-8) – 103
7.  Bartram Trail (Jacksonville) (6A) (19-10) – 93
8.  DeLand (8A) (20-11) – 90
9.  Episcopal (Jacksonville) (4A) (19-11) – 85
10. Trenton (1A) (21-4) – 70
11. Hernando (Brooksville) (5A) (23-5) – 65
12. Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (20-8) – 54
13. Eustis (5A) (20-9) –52
14. Lafayette (Mayo) (1A) (17-8) – 51
15. Stanton (Jacksonville) (5A) (19-7) – 43
16. Mandarin (Jacksonville) (8A) (19-7) – 32
17. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (7A) (18-8) – 31
18. The Villages (4A) (16-9) – 22
19. Taylor (Pierson) (1A) (16-10) – 16
20. Aucilla Christian (Monticello) (2A) (17-12) – 12

Also receiving votes:  North Marion (5A) (15-14)–11;Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto) (2A) (20-3) – 7; Forrest (Jacksonville) (6A) (17-8) – 3; Belleview (5A) (14-8) – 2; Trinity Christian (Deltona) (2A) (12-16) – 2.

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