Admiral Farragut coach Linda Derk admitted to not knowing much about Jacksonville University Christian heading into Thursday's Class 3A state semifinal at Historic Dodgertown.
That is normal. Derk said she does not watch opponents or scour through online statistics in order to get a scouting report.
Instead, she pays more attention to how well her team in playing.
On Thursday, the Blue Jackets (18-3) played well enough to win in their first state appearance. They were tied at 2 through four innings....
Land O'Lakes (27-2-1) vs. Plantation American Heritage (24-2)
When: 12:20 p.m. Friday
How they got here: Land O'Lakes: d. Jefferson 9-0, d. River Ridge 1-0, d. Springstead 1-0; American Heritage: d. Miami Goleman 15-0, d. Archbishop McCarthy 12-0, d. Rockledge 4-1.
Top players: Land O'Lakes — C Tayler Holt, Sr. (.354, 14 RBIs), INF Brianna Lindner (.375, 29 RBIs, 6 HRs), OF Jessie McAllister, Jr. (.452, 14 RBIs, 4 2Bs), P Shannon Saile, Sr.(18-2, 0.55 ERA, 260 Ks), OF Tia Williams, So. (.433, 32 RBIs, 4 HRs); American Heritage — P Madison Canby, Sr. (17-1, 0.21 ERA, 157 Ks); 3B Hannah Sipos, So. (.481, 27 RBIs, 9 2Bs), OF Jordyn Griffith, Fr. (.452, 31 RBIs, 4 HRs). ...
VERO BEACH — A season that began with rare uncertainty ended in a familiar spot for Canterbury's softball team.
The Crusaders again were in the state final four, reaching the Class 2A semifinals for the eighth time in the past nine seasons.
Canterbury again was facing Monticello Aucilla Christian, the third time the teams have met in the state tournament in as many years.
The Crusaders (16-11) again endured another painful outcome....
Countryside had just finished a wild 1-0 win in the region final, clinching the program's first state semifinal berth since 2007. The starting pitcher, Stella Preston, pitched a perfect, striking out a career-high 16. The winning run was scored with two outs in the bottom of seventh.
But the Cougars did not revel in the moment. There was no big celebration. No team photos.
That is a reflection of Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly, who deflects most praise....
Hillsborough County had some strong contenders for state softball titles this year. Newsome, a defending state champion, was nationally ranked. Plant City set a school record for wins. Gaither had a solid group of returnees. Chamberlain was tough.
And the two teams left at the start of this week's state semifinals are …
None of the above.
Alonso and Strawberry Crest, both of which barely registered a blip on the radar three months ago, defied the odds by getting through incredibly tough regions to make state semifinal appearances....
This is it for Land O'Lakes' quartet of senior starters, the final week of their high school softball careers.
The practices are over. Soon, the goofy costumes and dances will be, too.
The journey will end in Vero Beach, at the Class 6A state tournament, the destination Tayler Holt, Shannon Saile, Gaby Santiago and Kendall Tipton were determined to get to after enduring a painful finish to their season a year ago....
Taylor Finney, Strawberry Crest
In the second game of the season, Strawberry Crest shortstop Taylor Finney fielded a ball and did not pivot well on her throw.
She felt some pain but continued playing. The following game, she rounded first on an error.
The pain was back.
"I couldn't keep playing after that," Finney said. "But I made sure I left the field on my own."...
ST. PETERSBURG — The journey started for Canterbury's softball team three months ago. Kama Woodall was at another school. Hailey Hopkins was in college. Danielle Romanello was injured.
So much has changed for the Crusaders, the season unfolding in surprising and sometimes painful ways. Canterbury lost eight of its first 12 games and was stumbling well into March.
But the bumpy road has brought the Crusaders to their expected destination — the Class 2A state semifinals — for a fourth straight season and the eighth time in the past nine seasons....
At Historic Dodgertown, Vero Beach
Canterbury (16-10) vs. Aucilla Christian (18-5)
When: 10:35 a.m. Wednesday
How they got here: Canterbury d. Seacrest Country Day 15-0, d. Academy at the Lakes 10-4.; Aucilla Christian d. Peniel Baptist Academy 13-0, d. Gainesville Countryside Christian 13-0.
Top players: Canterbury — SS Taylor Bump, Jr. (.420, 28 RBIs, 12 2Bs); P Ashley Campbell, Jr. (.429, 4.18 ERA, 55 Ks), C Danielle Romanello, Jr., (.606, 31 RBIs, 4 HRs); Aucilla Christian — P Abigail Morgan, So. (.457, 1.09 ERA, 108 Ks); C Kelly Horne (.467, 32 RBIs, 6 HRs)....
ST. PETERSBURG — As an eighth-grader, Corynn Miner started weighing her high school options by touring Osceola Fundamental.
"Too big of a campus," Miner said.
She did not even consider Admiral Farragut Academy until her grandfather, Ron Ragland, an assistant football coach at the school, suggested checking it out. Miner did, and fell in love with the small school atmosphere and its military background....
CLEARWATER — For Countryside's Stella Preston, reaching the state semifinals for the first time in her career was as easy as 1-2-3.
As in 1-2-3 strikes and you're out.
Preston, a senior right-hander, threw a perfect game and set a career high with 16 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Riverview in the Class 8A region finals.
It is the first time the Cougars (24-4) have reached the state semifinals since 2007. Countryside will play Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas next Friday at Vero Beach's Historic Dodgertown. This is the Raiders' fourth straight state semifinal appearance....
Region final capsules
All games at 7 tonight.
Alonso (14-11) at Orlando Timber Creek (12-6): The Ravens are in the region final for the first time after knocking off defending state champion Newsome in the semifinals. Alonso's run is due in large part to stellar pitching and defense. In the past four games, the Ravens have allowed just three runs and have posted two straight shutouts. Jodi Handler, a sophomore, has emerged as Alonso's ace, allowing no runs and just six hits in the past two games. This is Timber Creek's second straight region final appearance. Last year, the Wolves season ended with a loss to eventual champion Newsome....
Three months ago, Land O'Lakes and Springstead met in a highly anticipated regular-season opener. The game lasted nine innings. The Eagles won 1-0.
Friday, they meet in a highly anticipated rematch in the Class 6A region finals. This time, there is much more at stake with the winner advancing to the state semifinals.
"I reminded them after the last game of who we get to play," Gators coach Mitch Wilkins said. "It should be a tremendous game."...
GULFPORT — Boca Ciega's Dsoni Ross was a first-time starter at linebacker as a sophomore last season. He played well, establishing himself as a leader with 64 tackles, third-best on the team.
But in the final four games, Ross also played running back.
That is where he really thrived, gaining 267 yards and averaging an impressive 13.4 yards per carry. The Pirates went 2-2 in those games after starting the season 0-6. ...
Four years ago, Canterbury School of Florida's Danielle Romanello committed to play softball at the University of Florida, the school she had always dreamed of attending.
Her college plans raised some eyebrows, not for which high-powered program she picked, but how early she did it.
Romanello was in eighth grade.
At the time, she was one of the youngest softball players to commit to a college. Because of that, her father, Dan Romanello, was hesitant to publicly announce the decision....