GAINESVILLE — With the 2021 high school baseball season ending, kudos to the teams for safely making it through the season after a 2020 season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it was a successful season for many teams on the field, with state semifinal, championship game appearances and a state title team in The Prep Zone Power Poll area.
But this season the center of high school baseball was in Clay County where two teams who finished as state runners-up ended up battling for the No. 1 ranking in the regional all-classification rankings.
St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park), which advanced to its first state final four and state championship game appearance in school history, ends up on top, receiving three of the seven first-place votes.
The Spartans (24-7) advanced to their first final four with a 4-0 win over North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) in the Region 1-2A final. Then in Fort Myers, SJCD slipped past No. 18 Mount Dora Christian Academy, 3-2, in the 2A state semifinals.
In the 2A championship game, the Spartans came up short, 5-3, against Out-of-Door (Sarasota). St. Johns Country Day also picked up two wins this season over No. 3-T Bolles (Jacksonville), wins over No. 3-T Spruce Creek (Port Orange) and No. 6 Bartram Trail (St. Johns) as well as a victory over No. 15 Creekside (St. Johns).
St. Johns Country Day outpointed another Clay County school, Fleming Island (Orange Park), for the top spot.
Despite not receiving any of the first-place votes, the 6A state runner-up Golden Eagles (25-6) finished second.
Fleming Island advanced to its first final four appearance by defeating Creekside and Chiles (Tallahassee) by back-to-back 3-2 scores to win Region 1-6A.
The Golden Eagles blanked Viera 6-0 in the state semifinals before bowing out in the 6A state title game 5-1 to Bloomingdale (Valrico).
Class 7A state runner-up Spruce Creek ends up in a tie for 3rd with 3A state semifinalist Bolles.
Spruce Creek (23-9) had to go on the road after dropping the District 2-7A championship to Lake Mary, but defeated No. 6 Bartram Trail, Lake Mary, and Lake Brantley (Altamonte Springs) on the road to advance to their first state semifinal appearance since winning the state title in 2012.
After outlasting Durant (Plant City) 1-0 in eight innings in the state semifinals, the Hawks came up short in the 7A state championship game against Stoneman Douglas (Parkland) 5-1.
Bolles (25-5) advanced back to the 3A final four by beating No. 10 Episcopal (Jacksonville), 3-1, in the regional semifinal round and winning 2-0 at Pensacola Catholic to win Region 1-3A. The Bulldogs came up short 2-1 against eventual state champ The First Academy (Orlando) in the state semifinals in Fort Myers, and despite picking up two first-place votes, Bolles drops two spots from first in the previous poll.
Rounding out the top five is 1A state champ Newberry.
The Panthers (25-1) move up seven spots from the previous poll and receive the final two first-place votes after winning their first baseball state title in school history.
Newberry knocked off defending 1A state champion Williston 12-6 in the Region 4-1A final to advance to their first final four since 1979. Then in Fort Myers, the Panthers held off No. 13 Hamilton County (Jasper), 3-2, in the state semifinal before rallying past top-ranked Chipley, 7-5, in the state title game.
Following Bartram Trail is 4A state runner-up North Marion (Citra) at No. 7.
The Colts (21-9) caught fire in the postseason, winning three regional playoff games against West Nassau (Callahan), RV Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville), and RV Baker County (Glen St. Mary) to win Region 1-4A.
In Fort Myers, North Marion handled No. 8 Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville), 4-1, behind a combined no-hitter before dropping the state title game 8-4 to North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek).
It was the first state championship game appearance for North Marion in their second trip to the final four.
Nature Coast Tech finishes in the top 10 at No. 8 after their run to the state semifinals, which included wins over Rockledge and Bishop Moore (Orlando) to win Region 2-4A and advance to Fort Myers for the second time in four years.
Rounding out the top 10 is Santa Fe (Alachua), which finished 23-3 but lost in the opening round of the 4A playoffs, and Episcopal.
Among the second 10 is Buchholz (Gainesville), which finished tied for 11th with Clay (Green Cove Springs). Clay failed to make the state playoffs after losing in the District 2-4A semifinals to Baker County (Glen St. Mary).
Moving into this final poll besides No. 13 Hamilton County is 2A state semifinalist Mount Dora Christian Academy, which is 18th.
Dropping out from the previous poll are Suwannee (Live Oak) and Lake Minneola.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, volleyball, girls basketball, boys 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 by sportswriters and sportscasters and it is powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville.
THE PREP ZONE POWER POLL POWERED BY ANYTIME FITNESS OF GAINESVILLE – 2021 BASEBALL POLL #5 (FINAL POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first place votes, final 2021 record, and total voting points.)
1. St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) (2A) (3) (24-7) – 129
2. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (6A) (25-6) – 128
3T. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (7A) (23-9) – 123
3T. Bolles (Jacksonville) (3A) (2) (25-5) – 123
5. Newberry (1A) (2) (25-1) – 106
6. Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (7A) (22-6) – 97
7. North Marion (Citra) (4A) (21-9) – 92
8. Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville) (4A) (24-5) – 74
9. Santa Fe (Alachua) (4A) (23-3) – 69
10. Episcopal (Jacksonville) (3A) (21-7) – 68
11T. Buchholz (Gainesville) (6A) (18-7-1) – 57
11T. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (4A) (19-5) – 57
13. Hamilton County (Jasper) (1A) (18-9) – 55
14. Mandarin (Jacksonville) (7A) (20-8) – 53
15. Creekside (St. Johns) (6A) (16-12) – 47
16. Hernando (Brooksville) (4A) (23-4) – 45
17. Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (18-10) – 33
18. Mount Dora Christian Academy (2A) (22-7) – 29
19. University (Orange City) (7A) (19-5) – 19
20. Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (21-5) – 18
Also receiving votes: Suwannee (Live Oak) (4A) (19-6) – 15; Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (4A) (15-16) – 11; Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (4A) (15-14) – 6; Vanguard (Ocala) (5A) (16-11) – 3; Lake Minneola (Minneola) (17-7) -2; New Smyrna Beach (6A) (16-9) – 2.