For a high school baseball season that was up and down for many teams, the final Prep Zone Power Poll rankings for the 2022 season showed the parity in the area.
Four different teams received first-place votes, and two of those four made it to the FHSAA Baseball Championships at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.
But in the end, a team making its first state semifinal appearance accumulated the most votes to finish on top.
The Columbia (Lake City) Tigers knocked off defending 5A state champion Mosley (Lynn Haven) 5-2 in the Region 1-5A semifinal, then scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off against Lincoln (Tallahassee), 7-6, in an exciting region final to advance to the Final Four for the first time in the history of their baseball program.
Columbia (22-9) lost 6-0 to Eau Gallie (Melbourne) in the 5A state semifinal game in Fort Myers. But the Tigers’ historic season earned them two of the seven first-place votes as they move into the No. 1 ranking in this season’s final poll.
Staying put and finishing at No. 2 is St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park). The Spartans (23-5)— the 2A state runner-up in 2021—were No. 1 in the first four rankings this season before falling to one spot in the previous poll. St. Johns Country Day came up short of another trip to Fort Myers, losing to eventual 2A state runner-up North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) in the Region 1-2A final.
Despite that loss, the Spartans also pick up two first-place votes.
Another team who advanced to the state semifinals ends up No. 3. Suwannee (Live Oak) knocked off No. 12 Clay (Green Cove Springs) 2-1 in the Region 1-4A semifinal, then slipped past No. 11 Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) 5-3 in the region final. The Bulldogs (24-5) advanced to their second Final Four in four years.
Unfortunately, like in 2019, Suwannee lost in the state semifinal, this time to eventual 4A state champ Island Coast (Cape Coral). But the Bulldogs also received a first-place vote and moved up 12 spots from the previous poll.
University (Orange City) finishes No. 4. The Titans (25-6) advanced to the Region 1-6A final but came up short after the long trip to Pace, 2-0. Pace ended up as 6A state runner-up to Doral Academy. University also garnered two first-place votes despite just coming up short of another state semifinal appearance.
Another first-time state semifinalist The Villages rounds out the top five. The Buffalo (20-8) was the No. 7 seed in Region 1-3A but won road games at Florida High (Tallahassee) and Received Votes (RV) Providence (Jacksonville) before returning home to play eighth-seeded Fernandina Beach in the region final. The Villages prevailed 2-1 to advance to the Final Four for the first time but saw their season ended 2-0 by Berkeley Prep (Tampa) in Fort Myers.
Bartram Trail (St. Johns), who lost in the Region 1-7A final to Hagerty (Oviedo), leads off the second five.
Sandalwood (Jacksonville) is tied at No. 7 with Spruce Creek (Port Orange), followed by previous-No. 1 Fletcher (Neptune Beach) at No. 9. Forest (Ocala) rounds out the top 10. Sandalwood, Fletcher, and Forest all lost in the opening round of the state playoffs.
The second 10 consists of two 1A programs who advanced to their first state semifinal appearances. Fort White, who wasn’t receiving votes in the previous poll, finishes No. 13 as they won Region 3-1A with road wins at Union County (Lake Butler) and RV Lafayette (Mayo). Unfortunately for the Indians (16-7) they came up short in Fort Myers, losing 4-1 to eventual state champion Holmes County (Bonifay).
The other first-time state semifinalist is Dixie County (Cross City), who ends up at No. 15. The Bears (13-10) won at Fort Meade before returning home to beat rival Chiefland in the Region 4-1A final to advance to Fort Myers. Dixie County led Bozeman (Panama City) 4-0 going into the fifth inning of the state semifinal but ended up losing, 8-4.
Also new to the rankings in this final poll of 2022 is 17th-ranked Hernando (Brooksville). The Leopards (20-9) advanced to the Region 2-4A final but were beaten by Dunedin 4-1.
Fernandina Beach (16-10) moves into the final rankings at No. 18 after its run to the regional final.
Despite not qualifying for the state playoffs, Buchholz (Gainesville) ended up No. 19 and Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) took the final spot at No. 20.
Dropping out from the previous poll were Lafayette (Mayo), University Christian (Jacksonville), and Nease (Ponte Vedra). Nease (16-9) failed to qualify for the state playoffs.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, girls volleyball, girls basketball, boys basketball, softball & baseball 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 weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters and it is powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville.
THE PREP ZONE POWER POLL – 2022 BASEBALL POLL No. 6 (FINAL POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first place votes, final 2022 record, and total voting points)
1. Columbia (Lake City) (5A) (2) (22-9) – 130
2. St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) (2A) (2) (23-5) – 122
3. Suwannee (Live Oak) (4A) (1) (24-5) – 119
4. University (Orange City) (6A) (2) (25-6) – 114
5. The Villages (3A) (20-8) – 107
6. Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (7A) (21-9) – 95
7T. Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (7A) (18-7) – 77
7T. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (6A) (19-9) – 77
9. Fletcher (Neptune Beach) (6A) (23-4) – 76
10. Forest (Ocala) (6A) (18-6) – 60
11. Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (4A) (21-7) – 59
12. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (4A) (18-11) – 56
13. Fort White (1A) (16-7) – 50
14. Santa Fe (Alachua) (4A) (20-7) – 44
15. Dixie County (Cross City) (1A) (13-10) – 40
16. Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville) (2A) (20-9) – 38
17. Hernando (Brooksville) (4A) (20-9) – 33
18. Fernandina Beach (3A) (16-10) – 29
19. Buchholz (Gainesville) (6A) (17-9) – 23
20. Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) (3A) (16-5) – 22
Also receiving votes: Mandarin (Jacksonville) (7A) (17-6) – 18; Lafayette (Mayo) (1A) (17-4) – 17; Ponte Vedra (6A) (9-18) – 13; University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (22-7) – 9; Lake Minneola (Minneola) (5A) (19-8) – 8; Providence (Jacksonville) (3A) (15-13) – 7; Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (19-9) – 6; Episcopal (Jacksonville) (3A) (17-11) – 3; Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (4A) (13-13) – 2; Nease (Ponte Vedra) (6A) (16-9) – 2.