Two area softball teams finish in top 10

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Photo credit: Matt_Brown from Getty Images Pro

The third time was the charm for the University Christian (Jacksonville) softball team.

After back-to-back final four losses in 2021 and 2022, the Fightin’ Christians (23-2) defeated Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers), 3-2, to win this year’s Class 2A state title.

They were the only team in the area to win a state title in 2023 and were a near unanimous selection as the top overall team in The Prep Zone Power Poll final rankings.

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U.C.S., which finished the season with a 16-game winning streak following back-to-back losses, received nine of the 10 first-place votes.

The team’s only losses this year were to 4A regional quarterfinalist St. Brendan (Miami) and 6A regional finalist Hagerty (Oviedo).

Among their victories this year were Class 7A regional semifinalist West Port (Ocala), 7A regional quarterfinalist Creekside (St. Johns), defending 5A state champion Middleburg, 4A regional finalist Baker County (Glen St. Mary), 3A regional semifinalist West Nassau (Callahan), twice, 3A state semifinalist Baldwin, and 2A regional finalist Providence (Jacksonville), twice. All seven teams are ranked or receiving votes in the final poll.

U.C.S. finished 13th overall in the MaxPreps statewide poll.

Although the Fightin’ Christians were the only area team to bring home a state title, there were several teams who either played for a state title or advanced to the state semifinals.

Deltona (22-5), which was one of six teams to advance to the FHSAA Softball Finals in Clermont, finished second.

The defending 4A state champion Wolves, who moved up to 5A this year, made a second straight appearance in a state championship game, falling 5-0 to Florida overall No. 1 Parrish Community in the 5A title game.

Deltona, which finished 19th in the MaxPreps rankings, received the other first-place vote.

Baldwin, which was ranked No. 1 in the fourth poll in April, finished third in the all-classification regional rankings.

The Indians (25-5) made a run all the way to the Class 3A state semifinals before falling to 2-time state champion Calvary Christian (Clearwater), 7-4.

Montverde Academy moved up 11 spots and into a tie for fourth with Hernando (Brooksville).

The Eagles (23-7) edged last year’s 3A runners-up, 3-2, in the Class 3A-Region 1 Final but lost to Somerset Academy (Miami) in the state semifinals.

The Leopards (24-5) had their 12-game winning streak snapped in the loss to the Eagles.

Class 1A state runner-up Branford leads off the second five at No. 6.

The Bucs (25-5), who moved up six spots and into the top 10, defeated defending 1A state champion Jay, 2-1, in the state semifinals but lost to Liberty County (Bristol), 7-4, in the title game.

Eustis, a Class 4A regional finalist last year, is ranked seventh.

The Panthers (19-6) lost to eventual state champion Lake Wales, 7-6, in the Class 4A-Region 2 Semifinals.

Providence is ranked eighth, while Dixie County (Cross City) and Episcopal round out the top 10.

The Stallions (19-6) lost at No. 1 University Christian, 8-3, in the Class 2A-Region 1 Final, while the No. 10 Eagles (22-5) lost at No. 3 Baldwin, 9-2, in the 3A-Region 1 Final.

Ninth-ranked Dixie County advanced to its second straight Class 1A state semifinal but lost to eventual state champion Liberty County, 6-2, in the semifinals.

In addition to Branford and Dixie County, other teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area who received votes were No. 12 Williston and Santa Fe (Alachua).

The 12th-ranked Red Devils, who were ranked No. 1 in Class 1A for most of the season, lost just three games all season but all three losses were at the hands of the No. 9 Bears.

Dixie County completed a two-game regular season sweep of the Red Devils (26-3) on Tuesday, March 14, and defeated then Class 1A No. 1 Williston, 5-3, in the Class 1A-Region 4 Final to advance to a second straight state semifinal.

Meanwhile, the Raiders (16-10) received votes following an appearance in the 3A state playoffs.

Santa Fe, which defeated Trinity Catholic (Ocala) to win the 3A-District 5 title, lost at No. 4 Hernando (Brooksville), 5-2, in a 3A-Region 2 Semifinals. They defeated Crystal River, 1-0, in the regional quarterfinals.

The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, 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 – 2023 SOFTBALL POLL #6 – FINAL POLL

(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final record, and total voting points)

Teams in bold are inside the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area.

1. University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (9) (23-2) – 199

2. Deltona (5A) (1) (22-5) – 191

3. Baldwin (3A) (25-5) – 177

4T. Hernando (Brooksville) (3A) (24-5) – 145

4T. Montverde Academy (3A) (23-7) – 145

6. Branford (1A) (25-5) – 138

7. Eustis (4A) (19-6) – 135

8. Providence (Jacksonville) (2A) (19-6) – 131

9. Dixie County (Cross City) (1A) (21-6) – 130

10. Episcopal (Jacksonville) (3A) (22-5) – 121

11. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (7A) (15-7) – 104

12. Williston (1A) (26-3) – 98

13. Ridgeview (Orange Park) (5A) (19-7) – 75

14. West Nassau (Callahan) (3A) (16-10) – 56

15. Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (4A) (19-10) – 49

16. East Ridge (Clermont) (7A) (16-10) – 46

17. Creekside (St. Johns) (7A) (19-7) – 44

18. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (5A) (13-11) – 37

19. Ponte Vedra (5A) (17-7) – 22

20. South Sumter (Bushnell) (3A) (16-11) – 17

Also receiving votes: West Port (Ocala) (7A) (17-11) – 11; Flagler Palm Coast (7A) (13-5) – 9; Aucilla Christian (Monticello) (1A) (14-8) – 7; Santa Fe (Alachua) (3A) (16-10) – 5; Middleburg (5A) (14-11) – 3; The Villages (3A) (18-6) – 3; Paxon (Jacksonville) (4A) (16-8) – 1; South Lake (Groveland) (6A) (11-16) – 1.

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