The theme of last week's district tournaments turned out to be upsets. Several teams that should have lost in the finals won, and teams that anticipated home games are packing their buses and leaving school early today.
Softball region quarterfinals
All games at 7 p.m. unless noted.
5A, Bloomingdale (18-8) at River Ridge (18-6): The Royal Knights continued clubbing the ball to claim the district title in an 11-1 win over Land O'Lakes. The Royal Knights outscored district tournament opponents 27-3. Michelle McKonly, Sarah Simon and Madison Morris have combined for 102 RBIs. They could have another solid night at the plate facing Bloomingdale pitchers Kelly Kristen and Kaylyn Camacho with ERAs of 2.45 and 3.37, respectively.
5A, Land O'Lakes (15-3) at Newsome (18-7): The Gators have the offense to move on, but it has become glaringly obvious that defense is their weak spot. Even when Land O'Lakes pummeled Ridgewood 24-2 in a district semifinal, it was evident errors could be exposed against tougher opponents. Despite how well Michelle Bradley pitches or hitters such as Loren Smith and Alexis Aubuchon come through, not making plays could equal an early exit. Newsome has won 11 of its past 13 games.
4A, Pasco (23-3) at Harmony (18-7-1): The Pirates' bid for a repeat trip to the state semifinals went through a rough patch in the middle of the season, and now they must rebound from a stunning loss to Zephyrhills in the district final. Pasco was happy to hear it would make the roughly two-hour trip to face Harmony — surprise district champions — because it meant avoiding Groveland South Lake until at least the region semifinals. Of course, the Pirates must win and will lean heavily on ace Colena Lazar. She has a 0.87 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 112 innings.
4A, Groveland South Lake (17-5) at Zephyrhills (20-6): They're still contemplating a Jessica Davis bronze statue at Zephyrhills after the Bulldogs shortstop hit a clutch winning single to down rival Pasco 4-3 for their third district crown in four seasons. Zephyrhills has won five in a row and 10 of its past 11, including victories against Mitchell and Nature Coast. But the Bulldogs will have to overcome the signature riseball of Eagles ace Shaina Dent. She has a 0.64 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 130 innings for a 16-5 record.
A, Ormond Beach Calvary Christian (11-9) at Hernando Christian (12-5), 4:30 p.m.: Hernando Christian returns to the region tournament after winning its fifth consecutive district crown. The Lions have yet to advance to a region semifinal and have been outscored 52-12 in state tournament games. That said, the Lions have three hitting over .500: Mary Ellen Langley, Heidi Riley and Jackie Butler. They also have outscored teams 157-50. They take on a Calvary Christian team that has been to the postseason twice and never advanced.
A, Academy at the Lakes (11-6) at Bradenton Christian (14-7), 4 p.m.: The Wildcats are making their first trip to the postseason and will ride the arm of freshman Amber Hay, who has a 1.32 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 74 innings. Offense will be key after AATL struggled with just three hits — the first came in the sixth inning — in a 4-0 loss to Canterbury in the district final. The Wildcats will head to Bradenton Christian to take on another surprise district champion. The Panthers advanced after avenging a pair of regular-season losses for a 3-1 victory over Sarasota Christian. Bradenton Christian pitcher Hailey Dearlove gave up six hits and three walks and struck out three in six innings for the win.
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-5315.