No state championships for the area but five teams played for an FHSAA Softball title; Oakleaf (Orange Park) finishes on top of all-classification regional rankings
GAINESVILLE – They were so close.
It took until the final inning of the final game, including a bad bounce, to seal the fate of defending state champion Oakleaf (Orange Park).
The nationally-ranked Knights were denied a repeat when a ground ball to third base hit the bag in the top of the seventh and allowed the only run of the game to score in a 1-0 loss to Hagerty (Oviedo) in the Class 8A state championship game at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
One run was as close as any team in the north part of the Sunshine State would come to winning a state title in 2018, although a total of five from the area advanced to the state championship game.
Oakleaf (Orange Park), which survived a scare in the 8A-District 2 semifinals by rallying for a 3-2 win in eight innings against Fleming Island (Orange Park), couldn’t recover against the Huskies.
The defeat snapped a 21-game winning streak.
However, despite the loss, the Knights (29-3) finished on top of The Prep Zone Power Poll, receiving all six first-place votes to finish No. 1 in the all-classification regional rankings.
Despite graduating eight seniors last year, this year’s team featured 13 college commits/signees, including eight Division-I players. According to MaxPreps, they had the second toughest schedule in the state, and the Knights were ranked sixth nationally heading into the title game.
Another state runner-up, Trenton, moved up one spot to finish second.
The Tigers (26-4), who were seeking their first fastpitch softball state title in school history, lost to Wewahitchka, 2-1, in the Class 1A state championship game.
Trenton, which was making its first state tournament appearance in 22 years, fell behind 2-0 on a throwing error in the first inning, and that proved to be the difference in the game on an extremely wet field.
Gainesville High School moved up one spot to finish third.
The Hurricanes (22-6) advanced to the Class 7A Regional Final, thanks in part to the 7A Player of the Year & Miss Softball finalist, Alissa Humphrey, but a key home run ignited Niceville in a 10-3 win to eliminate GHS.
The ‘Canes eliminated previous No. 2 Bartram Trail (St. Johns), 4-1, in the regional semifinals. That dropped the Bears (25-3) three spots to fifth.
West Nassau (Callahan) moved up five spots from ninth to fourth after advancing to the Class 5A state championship game.
The Warriors (24-7) defeated No. 7 Keystone Heights, 4-1, in the state semifinals, but they fell to Coral Springs Charter by the same score in the 5A title game.
It was one big inning that made the difference for the Panthers (30-2), who sent nine batters to the plate and scored all four runs on three hits, two walks and three errors to win their fourth straight state title.
Columbia (Lake City) is sixth. The Tigers (21-5), District 3 Runners-up to No. 3 Gainesville, moved up two spots despite a 7-5 loss at then #2 Bartram Trail in the first round of the 7A state playoffs.
Keystone Heights made the biggest jump to No. 7, moving up 13 spots from 20th thanks to a run all the way to the Class 5A state semifinals. Along the way, the Indians (20-11) defeated then-#11 Hernando (Brooksville), 3-2, in the regional final, then-#16 Santa Fe (Alachua), 4-1, in the regional semifinals, and then-#7 Eustis, 5-3, in the regional quarterfinals.
Class 7A Deltona, which finished 22-3, is ranked eighth. The Wolves lost to eventual state semifinalist Viera, 5-2, in the regional semifinals.
East Ridge (Clermont) is ranked ninth. The Knights (27-3) lost to #1 Oakleaf (Orange Park), 9-1, in the 8A regional finals. They defeated Freedom (Tampa), 7-0, in the regional semifinals and Wharton (Tampa), 14-0, in the regional quarterfinals.
Aucilla Christian (Monticello), which was making its fourth straight state championship game appearance, rounds out the top 10. The Warriors (18-10) finished as Class 2A state runners-up after falling to Academy at the Lakes, 1-0, in 11 innings in the 2A state championship game.
Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) moved into the rankings at No. 13.
The Conquerors (18-11) advanced to the Class 4A state championship game but fell to Westminster Christian (Miami), 6-1, in the title game. They defeated Montverde Academy, 3-2, in the state semifinals. The Eagles (21-9) moved into the rankings at No. 18.
State semifinalists Clay (Green Cove Springs) and Madison County are ranked 19th and 20th respectively.
The No. 19 Blue Devils (18-13) were district runners-up, but they advanced to the Class 6A state semifinals, where they lost to defending state champion & eventual state runner-up Land O’ Lakes, 5-0.
The Cowgirls (16-8) round out the top 20 after advancing to the Class 1A state semifinals. Madison County defeated defending 1A state champion Union County (Lake Butler) in the first round of the state playoffs but lost to No. 2 Trenton, 6-3, in Vero Beach.
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 and it is powered by Strive Fitness.
The Prep Zone Power Poll – 2018 Softball Poll #9 (FINAL POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final record, and total voting points)
1. Oakleaf (Orange Park) (8A) (6) (29-3) – 120
2. Trenton (1A) (26-4) – 112
3. Gainesville (7A) (22-6) – 105
4. West Nassau (Callahan) (5A) (24-7) – 101
5. Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (7A) (25-3) – 91
6. Columbia (Lake City) (7A) (21-5) – 78
7. Keystone Heights (5A) (20-11) – 72
8. Deltona (7A) (22-3) – 71
9. East Ridge (Clermont) (8A) (27-3) – 59
10. Aucilla Christian (Monticello) (2A) (18-10) – 54
11. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (9A) (19-11) – 49
12. Hernando (Brooksville) (5A) (25-6) – 44
13T. Crystal River (6A) (20-4) – 41
13T. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (4A) (18-11) – 41
15. University (Orange City) (9A) (21-6) – 40
16. Springstead (Spring Hill) (6A) (24-5) – 38
17. Eustis (5A) (21-6) – 32
18. Montverde Academy (4A) (21-9) – 24
19. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (6A) (18-13) – 23
20. Madison County (1A) (16-8) – 21
Also receiving votes: Mandarin (Jacksonville) (9A) (20-7) – 19; Ridgeview (Orange Park) (6A) (16-7) – 6; Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (17-9) – 6; Santa Fe (Alachua) (5A) (20-9) – 5; Providence (Jacksonville) (4A) (18-3) – 4; St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) (3A) (16-4) – 3; Hilliard (1A) (12-12) – 1.