As district softball tournaments monopolize fields across Hillsborough County next week, here’s a look at some of the most interesting matchups and players:
Best potential matchup
Bloomingdale-Alonso: The possible showdown for the Class 8A-7 championship features two of the county’s top teams, with only six losses between them. The teams split their regular season meetings by one run each. The Bulls feature an ace in Buffalo commit Lace Smith and have shut out six of their last eight opponents. But few teams boast the firepower of Alonso, which is led by Florida State recruit Jessica Warren (seven home runs, 23 RBIs).
Strawberry Crest: With Division I recruits like Mia Fung (USF) and Megan Reed (Florida), the Chargers have perhaps the county’s most talented team. That ability was obvious during an early 13-game win streak. Strawberry Crest has state potential, but it also has a treacherous road to get there. Likely semifinal opponent Durant hung with the Chargers in Strawberry Crest’s 5-4 win this month, and a possible district championship showdown with Plant City isn’t easy, either.
On the biggest roll
Chamberlain: The Chiefs have come a long way since February losses to Jefferson and Plant. Chamberlain enters the Class 6A-9 tournament as the favorite, with 14 wins in its past 15 games and holding hopes of a 17th playoff appearance since 1996. Ace Olivia Dwyer has turned into a workhorse with a 19-3 record and 1.45 ERA. Chamberlain, the 2012 state champion, has risen to No. 2 in the state.
Freedom: The Patriots made a surprising run to last year’s Class 7A state championship game and returned much of that team, including Maine-bound outfielder Rachel Carlson (.469 batting average) and pitcher Grace Street (2.06 ERA). Freedom lost to its Class 7A-8 semifinal opponent, Steinbrenner, by six runs in February, but Mallory McManus led the Patriots to a 2-1 win two weeks ago. If Freedom can get by the Warriors, it has the potential to be a playoff spoiler.
Gaither, Steinbrenner: The Cowboys are the top seed in Class 7A-8 and are on track for their best season in years. Behind slugger Elizabeth Mason (.550 average), and pitcher Sammi Grat, Gaither is off to a 14-5 start and is a favorite to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2010. …Junior Erica Serafini leads Steinbrenner’s regulars with a .429 average, but five other girls are batting at least .500. That depth gives the Warriors a strong shot at the young program’s first playoff appearance.
Scouting smaller schools
• The two-team Class 2A-7 matchup pits one of the county’s most prolific pitchers (Cambridge Christian’s Alea White and her 212 strikeouts) against one of Tampa Bay’s top sluggers, Academy at the Lakes senior Lauren Evans (.682 batting average, 17 extra-base hits).
• Carrollwood Day seems to have Seffner Christian’s number. Two of the Crusaders’ three losses came against CDS. The Patriots scored seven of the 22 earned runs allowed by Seffner Christian’s Rachel Seifert and Madison Cates this spring. The teams could meet again in the Class 3A-7 title game.
• Keep an eye on Berkeley Prep stars Kristin Hoover and McKenzie Ward. Hoover just finished a 7-for-9 stretch at the plate with three home runs, a triple and two doubles, while Ward struck out 29 batters in her last 19 innings.
• If Tampa Catholic and Academy of the Holy Names meet for a third time in the Class 4A-10 final, look for another big game from the Crusaders’ Kaylyn Carsons. She was 2-for-4 at the plate in both games, and two of her four RBIs this season came against the Jaguars.
Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.
Class 8A-7 at Riverview
Saturday: No. 4 Newsome vs. No. 5 Plant, 2; No. 3 Riverview vs. No. 6 Wharton, 5
Wednesday: No. 1 Bloomingdale vs. Newsome-Plant winner, 3; No. 2 Alonso vs. Riverview-Wharton winner, 6
Thursday: Final, 7
Class 7A-8 at Gaither
Wednesday: No. 4 Wiregrass Ranch vs. No. 5 Sickles, 7
Thursday: No. 2 Steinbrenner vs. No. 3 Freedom, 5; No. 1 Gaither vs. Wiregrass-Sickles winner, 7
Saturday: Final, 1
Class 7A-7 at Brandon
Saturday: No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech vs. No. 3 Durant, 1; No. 5 Brandon vs. No. 4 East Bay, 3
Wednesday: No. 2 Strawberry Crest vs. TBT-Durant winner, 5; No. 1 Plant City vs. Brandon-East Bay winner, 7
Thursday: Final, 7
Class 6A-9 at Blake
Saturday: No. 1 Chamberlain vs. No. 8 King, 10; No. 4 Blake vs. No. 5 Armwood, 12:30; No. 3 Leto vs. No. 6 Hillsborough, 3; No. 2 Jefferson vs. No. 7 Lennard, 5:30
Wednesday: Leto-Hillsborough winner vs. Jefferson-Leto winner, 4:30; Chamberlain-King winner vs. Blake-Armwood winner, 7
Thursday: Final, 7
Class 5A-9 at Robinson
Wednesday: No. 3 Spoto vs. No. 2 Middleton, 7
Thursday: Spoto-Middleton winner vs. Robinson, 7
Class 4A-10 at Berkeley Prep
Tuesday: No. 1 Holy Names vs. No. 4 Sarasota Booker, 5; No. 2 Tampa Catholic vs. No. 3 Berkeley Prep, 7
Wednesday: Final, 7
Class 3A-7 at Fest Field
Monday: No. 4 Brooks DeBartolo vs. No. 5 Bishop McLaughlin, 4:30
Tuesday: No. 1 Carrollwood Day vs. BD-Bishop winner, 2; No. 2 Seffner Christian vs. No. 3 Tampa Prep, 4:30
Thursday: Final, 5
Class 2A-8 at Canterbury
Monday: No. 4 Hernando Christian vs. No. 5 Keswick Christian, 6
Tuesday: No. 2 Bayshore Christian vs. No. 3 Lakeside Christian, 5:30; No. 1 Canterbury vs. HCA-Keswick winner, 7
Thursday: Final, 6
Class 2A-7 at West Tampa LL
Thursday: No. 1 Cambridge Christian vs. No. 2 Academy at the Lakes, 4
*Highest seeds host