By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught
Sunday, April 19
Every game has more meaning. The high school softball and baseball regular seasons are over. Now, each game could be the last.
The Gainesville High School softball team found that out the hard way on Tuesday. The Lady ‘Canes, nationally-ranked and the No. 1 team in the state in Class 6A, were expected to make a run at a state title. However, it what can be termed as a ‘one game season’ in the district semifinals, GHS was upset by Oakleaf (Orange Park) in the Class 6A-District 2 semifinals, 4-2. That meant their dream season is over. In order to qualify for the postseason you have to make it to your district championship game, where the winner of that game hosts a first-round state playoff game while the loser, although on the road for the first round of the FHSAA playoffs, lives for another day.
The Knights snapped a 21-game winning streak for GHS, which finished the season at 24-2. Oakleaf, the No. 4 seed heading into the tournament, then defeated No. 2 seed Columbia (Lake City) in the district championship game, 9-3, snapping a six game losing streak to the Lady Tigers. Oakleaf also had to beat Middleburg in the quarterfinals so they got hot at the right time – which is what the postseason is all about. The Knights (16-11) will now host Pace in a first-round playoff game this Thursday. Columbia will travel to Milton.
A similar upset occurred in 6A-District 10 where top-seeded Springstead (Spring Hill), which was an honorable mention in the last 6A state poll, lost for just the fifth time this season. The 7-4 loss against 4th-seeded Mitchell (New Port Richey) ended the top-seeded Eagles’ season at 21-5.
That’s all it takes. A loss in the district semifinals and your season is over. You can throw out records, rankings and district standings.
Other top seeds that lost in the district semifinals include Crystal River (5A-District 6) and Bolles (Jacksonville) (4A-3), while No. 2 seeds Flagler Palm Coast (8A-1), Menendez (St. Augustine) (5A-4), Lake Weir (Ocala) (5A-5), Lecanto (5A-6), Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (4A-3), Seacoast Christian (Jacksonville) (2A-2), Trenton (1A-6), and Union County (Lake Butler) (1A-7) all failed to advance.
It all comes down to a one game season. The first round of the state softball playoffs will begin on Wednesday for Classes 3A, 5A & 7A, followed by the first round for Classes 2A, 4A, 6A & 8A on Thursday. The Class 1A tournament begins on Tuesday, April 28.
Area teams in the softball state playoffs
(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)
Class 8A regional quarterfinals (Thursday)
University (Orange City) at Mandarin (Jacksonville)
First Coast (Jacksonville) at Hagerty (Oviedo)
Class 7A (Wednesday)
Winter Springs at Atlantic Coast (Jacksonville)
Fleming Island (Orange Park) at Lake Howell (Winter Park)
Class 6A (Thursday)
Columbia (Lake City) at Milton
Pace at Oakleaf (Orange Park)
Englewood (Jacksonville) at Creekside (St. Johns)
Bartram Trail (St. Johns) at Ed White (Jacksonville)
Lake Minneola at Deltona
Seabreeze (Daytona Beach) at Forest (Ocala)
Class 5A (Wednesday)
Gulf Breeze at Suwannee (Live Oak)
Ponte Vedra at Baker County (Glen St. Mary)
Paxon (Jacksonville) at Clay (Green Cove Springs)
Citrus (Inverness) at Belleview
North Marion (Citra) at Dunnellon
Tarpon Springs at Hernando (Brooksville)
Nature Coast (Brooksville) at River Ridge (New Port Richey)
Class 4A (Thursday)
Yulee at Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville)
Baldwin at West Nassau (Callahan)
Bradford (Starke) at South Sumter (Bushnell)
Hudson at Santa Fe (Alachua)
Astronaut (Titusville) at Montverde Academy
Class 3A (Wednesday)
Oak Hall (Gainesville) at Rocky Bayou Christian/North Florida Christian
Rocky Bayou Christian/North Florida Christian at St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park)
Providence (Jacksonville) at Mount Dora Bible
Master’s Academy (Oviedo) at University Christian (Jacksonville)
Class 2A (Thursday)
Munroe (Quincy) at First Coast Christian (Jacksonville)
Cedar Creek Christian (Jacksonville) at Aucilla Christian (Monticello)
Central Florida Christian (Orlando) at Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto)
Peniel Baptist (Palatka) at Foundation Academy (Winter Garden)
Hernando Christian (Brooksville) at Academy at the Lakes (Land O’ Lakes)
Class 1A regional semifinals (Tuesday, April 28)
Hilliard at Lafayette (Mayo)
Branford at Bell
Crescent City at Chiefland
Dixie County (Cross City) at Taylor (Pierson)
The district baseball tournaments begin this week. Stay tuned for Part II of the Prep Zone Insider on Monday, April 27.