The dream season continues tonight for the Santa Fe High School baseball team, which set the regular season school record for winning percentage with only two defeats all season.
“We've developed into an extremely selfless team throughout the course of the year,” said Santa Fe coach Travis Yeckring. “A bunch of guys who are willing to do whatever is best for the team to win and don't care who gets the credit. It's been fun to see us mature, and that type of attitude pay off.”
The Raiders (23-2) will host Arnold (Panama City) (15-10) at 7 p.m. in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals.
Santa Fe doesn’t know much about its opponent, but that’s not a concern for Yeckring.
“For us all year it's been about worrying about ourselves and what we need to take care of and execute regardless of who is in the other dugout,” he said. “I do know they have a couple good arms and looked to have played a fairly challenging schedule. But it’s the same formula—throw strikes, make routine plays, and get a few timely hits.”
On Friday, a pair of area teams will be traveling.
After falling in the Class 1A-District 6 championship game last week, the Union County baseball team will look to be road warriors in the state playoffs.
“I told the players I thought we played well enough to win the game, but the game just didn't go our way,” said Union County coach Travis Rimes. “I reiterated that Hamilton had two timely hits that produced five costly runs. I believe we had opportunities, but the game just never did go our way. That is baseball.”
The Tigers (20-4), who were ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A, lost at home to Hamilton County (Jasper), 6-2, in the title game.
“The outcome did not turn out the way we wanted, but the positive take is that we are still in the thick of things, so we will put that game behind us because that is where it belongs,” Rimes said. “We'll continue to grow from this experience, and we are looking forward to taking the next game one at a time. The team has responded well at practice.”
Union County will travel to Liberty County (Bristol) (15-12) on Friday for a Class 1A regional semifinal.
“We are going to prepare from them just like we have any other team this season,” Rimes said. “The key to advance is simple, we just have to win and take each game one at a time.”
Hamilton County, which won its first district title in 19 years, will host Blountstown in the other regional semifinal with the winners to face each other in Tuesday’s regional final for the right to go to the Class 1A final four.
And in Class 6A, Buchholz will be on the road after losing at Chiles (Tallahassee), 8-0, in last Friday’s Class 6A-District 2 championship. The Bobcats (18-6-1) have had a good season under coach Ron Brooks.
“We have been successful due to an excellent team culture,” Brooks said. “Our players really rally around one another and enjoy being part of a team together. We also have pitched well with solid defense backing it up. Offensively we have different guys step up in big spots throughout the year.”
Buchholz will make the long trek to Pace (15-12) for the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“Pace is an extremely solid well coached team with a great baseball tradition,” Brooks said. “Offensively they do a great job through the order of putting pressure on you. They have two left handers in the middle of the lineup that can do a lot of damage.”
It could come down to pitching.
Buchholz has been solid with a team earned run average of 2.26.
“Pitching wise they get after you in the zone and compete,” Brooks said. “They threw it really well in their district tournament. Going to be a great baseball environment at their place Friday night.”
Regional Quarterfinals (Area teams in bold)
Thursday, May 6
Class 3A – Episcopal (Jacksonville) at Keystone Heights, 7 p.m.
Class 4A – Arnold (Panama City Beach) at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7 p.m.
Friday, May 7
Class 2A – Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at North Florida Christian (Tallahassee), 4 p.m.
Class 6A – Buchholz (Gainesville) at Pace
Regional Semifinals – Class 1A
Friday, May 7
Union County (Lake Butler) at Liberty County (Bristol), 7 p.m.
Crescent City at Newberry, 7 p.m.
Williston at Fort Meade, 7 p.m.