JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The high school state playoffs begin Wednesday run through Friday.
A look at first-round matchups of area teams. All games are at 7 p.m. unless indicated.
Baker County (16-7) at West Florida (16-7), Friday, 6 p.m.
Clay 2, Bishop Kenny 0
Paxon 3, Wakulla 2
Ridgeview 10, Yulee 0
Region glance: Very good local region here. Super 6 No. 1 Ridgeview has been the area’s strongest team from start to finish and it has arguably the best two-way player in Brittany Michael (.441, 22-3). Freshman Haylee McCrea (.383) has turned in a stellar first season. The Hornets, led by Emily Timms (.333), Annalisa Winebarger (.324, 2 HR) and Riley Kapparis (.321), have a tough challenge ahead. … Very good matchup between the Crusaders and Blue Devils. Kenny has won four straight entering the postseason, with Caroline Orum (.449, 23 RBI) and Alleana DeLeon (.429) hitting over the .400 mark. Blue Devils sophomore Gabrielle Ellis (.528) is one of the top hitters in the area. Sydney Davis (.409) is an RBI machine (31). … Paxon has quietly been reaching the playoffs just about every season. It was the Gateway runner-up this year. The Golden Eagles only missed the playoffs once in the 2010s (2013). Abigail Ponsler (.415, 3 HR) and Kate Wilson (.400) lead the offense. Hurler Ashley Connor (1-7, 242 Ks in 146.2 IP) is capable of icing any offense. … Baker County has one of the strongest arms in the area going in all the big games (Madison Lagle). She’s whiffed 176 in 88.2 IP. With pitching at a premium the deeper the playoffs go, Lagle has the arm to keep Baker County in it. Hailey Barfoot (.321) and Emily Griffin pace the Wildcats offense.
West Nassau 11, Fernandina Beach 1
Episcopal 5, Baldwin 0
Region glance: Two very good openers here. The Indians won their first Gateway title this season and always field a big-swinging offense. Cali Hartung (.486, 6 HR), Kayla Robinson (.458, 7 HR) and Chloe Gotto (.449) front an offense that has five hitters over .400. In the circle, Piper Young (117 Ks in 121.1 IP) guides the Indians. Those hitters face a challenge in trying to solve Episcopal ace Maddie Latta, one of the best arms in the area. She’s struck out 230 in 120.1 IP and has an 0.29 ERA. And there aren’t many teammates left in the state playoffs who are hitting .500 or better, but Kami Eppley (.526) and Grace Jones (.500) are doing just that. … West Nassau has been a Super 6 team all season and begins every playoff run with an eye on reaching the state semifinals. Sydney English (.441, 30 RBI, 2 HR), Trinity Armstrong (.364) and Hope Epps (.355) lead West Nassau at the plate and pitcher Regan Lee (155 Ks in 127.2 IP, 1.98 EA) has shutdown material in the circle. The other side of the Nassau County showdown features the Pirates, led by freshman Kaitlyn Carolino (.530, 23 RBI, 3 HR) and a pair of sophomores in Jenna Swift (.407) and Carolyn Tyson Guess (.406).
St. Johns Country Day (9-5) at North Florida Christian (11-9), Friday, 4 p.m.
Trinity Christian 12, Aucilla Christian 2
University Christian 15, Father Lopez 0
Christ’s Church 7, Peniel Baptist 3
Region glance: Two teams in this region snatch up the headlines, Trinity and UC. The last time there were state championships, Trinity blistered Miami Westminster Christian (16-0) for the Class 3A state crown in 2019. MacKenzie Marell (.541, 30 RBI, 6 HR), Amaya Ross (.450, 24 RBI, 6 HR), Breezy Burnett (.441, 8 HR) and Morgan McMillian (.426, 23 RBI, 6 HR) lead a wicked powerful lineup. Barring an upset, Trinity and UC should collide in the regional final. Freshman Sophia Kardatzke (.593, 9 HR) is a two-way threat who has struck out 179 batters in 86 innings. Sophomores Amia Matthews (.444) and Jaleighia Harris (.412, 25 RBI, 4 HR) are behind Kardatzke at the plate.
Spruce Creek (13-9) at Oakleaf (16-9), postponed to Friday, 7 p.m.
Bartram Trail (17-10) at Orange City University (22-0), 5 p.m.
Region glance: The Knights lost seven of eight games during a bruising stretch in the tail end of the season. But they found stability at the end and won three straight to finish the regular season. Ciara Gibson (.419), Khloe Banks (.408), Kayla Aldridge (.377) and Trinidi Murrell (.373) power the Oakleaf offense. Murrell has belted five homers. Just because the record isn’t as gaudy as it has been in recent seasons, don’t count out the Knights just yet. ... Brutal opening assignment for the Bears, who travel to face the 10th-ranked team in the country by MaxPreps. MacKenzie Williams (.478) and Ryan Trowell (.462) lead the offense. Kendall Ford has four of Bartram’s 13 home runs.
South Lake (21-4) at Creekside (19-5), postponed to Friday, 7 p.m.
Fletcher (14-9) at Winter Springs (18-7)
Region glance: The Knights have been one of the area’s best teams much of the season. Madison Bratek (.494), Kylie Hammonds (.446) and Kendall Catherwood (.417) have been about as consistent as it gets at the plate. Kaylee Martineau has been the lead arm in the circle and one of the freshman headliners on a team filled with underclassmen. … Dacie Watterson (.423), Chloe Brown (.407) and Emily Perry (.392) lead Fletcher at the plate, while Presley Harrell (13-8, 101 Ks in 142.2 IP) is the leader in the circle. The last time that the state crowned softball champions in 2019, Winter Springs was one of them. The Bears finished the 2019 season 31-0 and ranked 11th nationally.
Matanzas (11-9) at Gainesville (18-6)
Middleburg (13-14) at Deltona (10-10-2)
Region glance: Tough opener for the Pirates with a trip to Gainesville. Emma Wood (.424, 19 RBI, 6 HR) tops Matanzas in all the offensive categories. ... The Broncos have a strong arm in Mallory Forrester (177 Ks in 101 IP) and she has the talent to shut down even the strongest bats, as evidenced by numerous outings this season. Colleen Johnson (.400, 19 RBI, 2 HR) leads the Broncos in the Triple Crown categories. Courtney Bernhard (.354) and Belle Mincey (.345) follow at the plate.
Taylor County (17-8) at Union County (12-8)
Hilliard (6-17) at Branford (13-4)
Region glance: A good and balanced opener between the Bulldogs and Tigers here, with Leah Clark (.551, 25 RBI, 3 HR) and Tamia Young (.407, 26 RBI) leading the Union County attack. ... Hilliard has a challenging opener against a Branford squad that is ranked as the No. 5 team in the state by MaxPreps. Harley Guynn (.393, 18 2Bs) and Hannah Steedley (.314) lead the Red Flashes offense.