Gainesville – Four teams in the final Prep Zone Power Poll were crowned state champions at the FHSAA state softball championships in Vero Beach last week. Only one of those teams is the unanimous #1 team in the final poll for the 2016 season.
Gainesville (28-2) won its first state softball title at Historic Dodgertown, winning the Class 7A championship with back-to-back shutouts, 4-0 over Braden River (Bradenton) in the semifinal and 1-0 against Lake Region (Eagle Lake) in the championship game.
Senior pitcher and University of Florida signee Katie Chronister capped off her fantastic high school career with the Purple Hurricanes by allowing only one run in five regional and state playoff games. She drove in the winning run in the state semifinal and also scored the only run in the state title game on a sacrifice fly by Hallie Karas in the fourth inning.
With the state title, GHS received all seven first place votes to finish as the unanimous top team for the 2016 season.
Finishing in a tie for 2nd is 1A state champion Chiefland, which captured its third straight state title.
The Indians (28-1) had to work for it though. They rallied from an early deficit in the Region 4-1A final and defeated rival Trenton 6-5 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 7th, then had to work 13 innings in the state semifinals before finally putting seven runs on the board to beat Franklin County (Eastpoint) 13-6.
Because of rain washing out the entire first day of semifinals in Vero Beach, Chiefland had to turn right around two hours later after that 13 inning game and play in the state championship game against Wewahitchka. The Indians trailed 1-0 going into the fourth inning, but put a 12 spot on the board in that inning and clinched the three-peat by a 12-6 score.
Chiefland is the first Florida team to win three consecutive softball state titles since Eagle’s View (Jacksonville) from 2008-2010.
Tying for second with the Indians is South Sumter (Bushnell). The Raiders (23-3) defeated then-#10 Nature Coast (Brooksville) in the Region 3-5A final to advance to the first state semifinal in school history, but were shutout by eventual 5A state champion Coral Springs Charter 6-0 in the state semifinals in Vero Beach.
Finishing fourth is Oakleaf (Orange Park), which was the #1 team for eight of the nine previous polls this season. The Knights (25-3), who were a state semifinalist in 6A in 2015, lost at Strawberry Crest (Dover) in the Region 1-8A final and didn’t make it back to Vero Beach.
Rounding out the top five is the third and final state champion in The Prep Zone coverage area – Aucilla Christian (Monticello). The Warriors (21-5) moved up 10 spots from the previous poll into the top five after winning their second consecutive 2A state title.
Aucilla Christian easily rolled to the repeat, outscoring their four regional and state playoff opponents 45-1, including a 13-0 romp in five innings over Grandview Prep (Boca Raton) in the 2A state title game.
The second five consists of Springstead (Spring Hill), 5A state semifinalist Baker County (Glen St. Mary), Deltona, Spruce Creek (Port Orange), and Clay (Green Cove Springs). Baker County (22-7), the 5A state champion in 2015, advanced back to Vero Beach but was bounced in the semifinals by Bayshore (Bradenton).
The second 10 is highlighted by University Christian (Jacksonville) (18-10), which finished as the state runner-up in 3A. The Fightin’ Christians (18-10) were tied 1-1 into the ninth inning of the championship game before defending champion Lakeland Christian pulled away to win 9-1. They moved up seven spots to 13th in the final poll.
Also moving into the final poll is Montverde. The Eagles (21-7) advanced to the 4A state championship game but lost a close 7-5 decision to Bishop Verot (Fort Myers). 1A state semifinalist Union County (Lake Butler) is 15th, 4A state semifinalist Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) jumps into the poll at a tie for 17th, and 2A state semifinalist Mount Dora Christian finishes 19th.
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 – 2016 SOFTBALL POLL #10 (FINAL RANKINGS)
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final record, and total voting points)
1.Gainesville (7A) (7) (28-2) – 140
2T Chiefland (1A) (28-1) – 127
2T South Sumter (Bushnell) (5A) (23-3) – 127
4. Oakleaf (Orange Park) (8A) (25-3) – 118
5. Aucilla Christian (Monticello) (2A) (21-5) – 104
6. Springstead (Spring Hill) (6A) (27-2) – 101
7. Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (22-7) – 96
8. Deltona (7A) (23-4) – 88
9. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (9A) (20-6) – 83
10. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (6A) (22-5) – 64
11. Ponte Vedra (6A) (20-8) – 61
12. Nature Coast (Brooksville) (5A) (25-5) – 60
13. University Christian (Jacksonville) (3A) (18-10) – 55
14. Montverde (4A) (21-7) – 54
15. Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (20-4) – 50
16. Mandarin (Jacksonville) (9A) (22-5) – 32
17T. Suwannee (Live Oak) (5A) (19-7) – 23
17T. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (4A) (17-10) – 23
19. Mount Dora Christian (2A) (20-9) – 16
20. Forest (Ocala) (8A) (17-11) – 15
Also receiving votes: Lafayette (Mayo) (1A) (20-9) – 14; Belleview (6A) (19-6) – 10; Eustis (5A) (18-6) – 7; West Nassau (Callahan) (5A) (18-8) – 2.