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The Prep Zone Power Poll powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville – 2024 Softball Poll #1

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Reigning champion University Christian starts at No. 1

GAINESVILLE — There’s a familiar school at the top of the all-classification regional softball rankings.

Defending FHSAA Class 2A state champion University Christian (Jacksonville), which finished on top of The Prep Zone Power Poll at the end of 2023, starts the new year where they last led off at No. 1.

Last year the third time was the charm for U.C.S, which became the only team in the 26-county coverage area to win a state title.

After back-to-back final four losses in 2021 and 2022, the Fightin’ Christians (23-2) defeated Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers), 3-2, to win last year’s Class 2A state title.

USC Upstate signee Sophia Kardatzke (22-1, 1.33 ERA, 227 K) is back in the circle. Kardatzke (.632, 13 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 1.947 OPS) was also a huge part of last year’s offense.

The Christians received seven of the eight first-place votes to remain on top.

Last week U.C.S. d. Bolles (Jacksonville), 18-4, to win its 17th straight game.

Deltona, which finished 22-5 last year in 5A after winning it all in 4A the year before, is ranked second.

The Wolves won both game last week at Astronaut (Titusville), 4-1, and at Mainland (Daytona Beach), 23-0.

Class 3A state semifinalist Baldwin is next at No. 3.

The Indians (25-5) made a run all the way to the Class 3A state semifinals before falling to 2-time state champion Calvary Christian (Clearwater), 7-4.

Seminole State College signee Shaylen Byrd (24-5, 1.86 ERA, 229 K) is in the circle and the offense should benefit with some key returnees. Last week they outscored Clay (Green Cove Springs), vs. Fleming Island (Orange Park), and Palatka by a combined 38-0 score.

Eustis is ranked fourth.

The Panthers (19-6), regional finalists in 2022, lost to eventual state champion Lake Wales, 7-6, in the Class 4A-Region 2 Semifinals last year.

Last week they posted wins against Taylor (Pierson) and New Smyrna Beach by a combined 43-8.

Rounding out the top five is Class 1A state runner-up Branford at No. 5.

Eight starters return for a Bucs’ team that advanced to its first state championship game in program history.

Class 3A state semifinalist Montverde Academy is ranked sixth, followed by 3A region finalist Episcopal (Jacksonville), 3A region finalist Hernando (Brooksville) and 7A regional quarterfinalist Creekside (St. Johns) and 7A region finalist Spruce Creek (Port Orange), who are tied for ninth in the top 10.

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 by sportswriters and sportscasters and it is powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville.

THE PREP ZONE POWER POLL – 2024 SOFTBALL POLL #1
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, 2023 record, record through 2/24, and total voting points)
1. University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (7) (23-2) (1-0) – 158
2. Deltona (5A) (1) (22-5) (2-0) – 149
3. Baldwin (3A) (25-5) (3-0) – 148
4. Eustis (4A) (19-6) (2-0) – 120
5. Branford (1A) (25-5) (3-0) – 114
6. Montverde Academy (3A) (23-7) (2-1) – 113
7. Episcopal (Jacksonville) (3A) (22-5) (2-0) – 111
8. Hernando (Brooksville) (3A) (24-5) (0-1) – 92
9T. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (7A) (15-7) (1-0) – 81
9T. Creekside (St. Johns) (7A) (19-7) (3-0) – 81
11. West Nassau (Callahan) (3A) (16-10) (2-1) – 78
12. Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (4A) (19-10) (2-0) – 70
13. Ridgeview (Orange Park) (5A) (19-7) (0-0) – 69
14. Middleburg (5A) (14-11) (2-0) – 56
15. East Ridge (Clermont) (7A) (16-10) (2-0) – 38
16. Gainesville (6A) (6-14) (3-0) – 35
17. Oakleaf (Orange Park) (6A) (10-12) (2-0) – 33
18. Ponte Vedra (5A) (17-7) (2-1) – 32
19. Providence (Jacksonville) (2A) (19-6) (0-2) – 24
20. Dixie County (Cross City) (1A) (21-6) (1-1) – 22
Also receiving votes: Santa Fe (Alachua) (3A) (16-10) (2-1) – 17; Williston (1A) (26-3) (1-2) – 12; Trenton (1A) (16-9) (2-0) – 9; West Port (Ocala) (7A) (17-11) (1-0) – 6; South Lake (Groveland) (6A) (11-16) (2-1) – 5; Paxon (Jacksonville) (4A) (16-8) (0-2) – 3; Flagler Palm Coast (7A) (13-5) (1-0) – 2; South Sumter (Bushnell) (3A) (16-11) (2-2) – 1; Fort White (1A) (10-10) (1-0) – 1.

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