A pair of district titles and a second-round playoff appearance were the highlights this year for big school softball teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area.
And the school with the most success on the field in 2023, leads the way on the Bosshardt Realty Big School All Area Softball Team.
Santa Fe (Alachua) had the most selections with four. The Raiders also had the deepest run amongst big school area teams.
Despite no seniors on its roster, Santa Fe was the only team in the area to win an FHSAA playoff game.
The Raiders (16-10) edged Trinity Catholic (Ocala), 5-4, to win the 3A-District 5 title and earn a regional playoff game at home, edging Crystal River, 1-0, in a 3A-Region 2 Quarterfinal behind 17 strikeouts from freshman pitcher Sarah Burns, who narrowly missed making the team.
Youthful Santa Fe did it with offense this year, batting .380 as a team. And with four players who batted around .500 or better, it comes as no surprise that they would lead the way.
The best batting average in the area belonged to sophomore Grace Mattson.
The third baseman finished with a .556 average, a team-leading 45 hits and a .620 on base percentage. She was second on the team with 30 runs scored.
“She is a very quiet player who leads by example,” said Santa Fe coach Gene Findley. “I’m always telling her to ‘get loud.’ She was a huge part in our offense batting in the No. 2 spot.”
Teammate Madisen Crosby wasn’t far behind Mattson with a .524 average, which was good for third on the team.
Crosby, who led the team with 13 stolen bases and 27 RBI, was second on the team with 44 hits and a .583 OBP. The freshman catcher also led the team with a .985 fielding percentage.
“She challenges herself every practice and every game to be the best player she can be,” Findley said. “She was a huge part of our team offensively and defensively including batting in the No. 3 spot.”
Madisen’s older sister, Amy Crosby, is one of three outfielders who made All Area.
The junior batted .493 with a team-leading 33 runs and five triples. Her .706 slugging percentage was second on the team.
“She is one of my players that plays multiple positions on the field and never questions where I put her,” Findley said. “Always willing to go to whatever position she’s needed at. She is a huge asset to this team and is my leadoff batter.”
The final member of the team from Santa Fe is outfielder J’lynn Guyden.
The sophomore was second on the team with a .529 average and she led the team with 13 doubles and a .785 SLG%. Despite playing six less games, she finished second on the team behind Madisen Crosby with 26 RBI.
“She works hard on and off the field to be the best she can be on the field as well as in the classroom,” Findley said. “She is another very quiet player who leads by example.”
Bradford (Starke) junior Rylie Blankenship is the third and final member of the All Area outfield, although she played multiple positions for the Tornadoes.
Blankenship was second on her team with a .462 average and she led the team with a .568 OBP, 31 runs, and 21 stolen bases.
“Rylie is a tremendous athlete and leader,” said Bradford coach Kaylan Taylor. “She did a lot of pitching for us and also played the infield and outfield while also leading our team in many offensive categories.”
Keystone Heights carried a losing record into its district tournament. However, the Indians (9-18) reeled off three straight victories to win the 3A-District 3 tournament and earn a 3A state playoff appearance.
They placed second baseman Alaina Kinsall and shortstop Kiley Channell on the team.
Channell, a senior, led her team with a .493 average, a .552 OBP, a 1.026 SLG%, 8 HRs, 25 RS, and 37 hits.
“(Channell) is one of the best all-around great players I have ever coached,” said Keystone Heights coach Jessica Marquart. “She kept our offense going in most of our games and she led our defense by her senior leadership and experience. Her work ethic is like no other and loves this game and it shows on the field. Her skills will be truly missed but also her character and the way she led her team.”
Kinsall, a junior, was second on the team with a .458 average and a .484 OBP, and a .593 SLG% despite playing seven less games.
“(Kinsall) plays hard and has unbelievable talent on the field and at the plate,” Marquart said. “She led our defense with no errors all season and was a true leadoff hitter where she always made things happen and got on base. I’m looking forward to her leading this team next year.”
Rounding out the infield was first baseman Emma Mansfield of P.K. Yonge.
The sophomore led the Blue Wave (11-10) with a .500 batting average, a .578 OBP, a 1.000 SLG%, eight doubles and three HRs despite playing just 15 games.
Buchholz sophomore Juliana Abraham made the team as a utility player.
Abraham, aka “Bear,” which she was nicknamed after moving to Gainesville from Winter Springs, led the Bobcats with a .446 average, a .523 OBP, 33 H, 20 R, and a .635 SLG%.
“Juliana led our team in almost every offensive statistical category yet is determined to get better,” said Buchholz coach Will Hooper. “She is the type of player every coach would want on their team as she is very respectful and supportive of her teammates but also very coachable.”
Defensively, although she primarily played catcher, she played several positions throughout the year.
“Bear is the type of player you can put anywhere and she will work hard to do what’s best for the team,” Hooper said. “We are excited she is returning to lead our team next year.”
The two pitchers who made the All Area team were senior Zoryana Hughes of Columbia (Lake City) and freshman Gracie Watley of Suwannee (Live Oak).
Hughes, an FAMU signee, helped lead the Tigers to a Class 5A at-large playoff berth by finishing 5-3 in the circle with a 1.41 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 69.2 innings pitched. She also batted .333 and had a team-best .510 OBP.
“Zoryana was the player whose motto was “control the controllables,” said Columbia coach Cindy Dansby. “She was very posed under pressure and strong in tough situations on the mound. Zo studies the game and knows how to compete at the next level. Her teammates voted her as having grit and resilience as a player.”
Watley finished the season with 175 strikeouts and only 44 walks in 133.2 innings pitched. In 21 appearances, she had a 2.20 ERA for the Bulldogs (14-9).
Big School (3A-7A)
C – Madisen Crosby (Fr./Santa Fe)
1B – Emma Mansfield (So./P.K. Yonge)
2B – Alaina Kinsall (Jr./Keystone Heights)
SS – Kiley Channell (Sr./Keystone Heights)
3B – Grace Mattson (So./Santa Fe)
OF – J’lynn Guyden (So./Santa Fe)
OF – Rylie Blankenship (Jr./Bradford)
OF – Amy Crosby (Jr./Santa Fe)
Utility – Juliana Abraham (So./Buchholz)
P – Zoryana Hughes (Sr./Columbia)
P – Gracie Watley (Fr./Suwannee)
Bradford (Starke) – Addyson Hinds (Fr.), Takierra Bakken (Sr.), Masey Padgett (Sr.), Kirsten Hodges (Jr.), Amber Wynn (So.)
Buchholz – Lillyenne Mayhew (Fr.), Lindsay Orton (Sr.), Kayla Hooper (Sr.), Jayda Cooper (So.)
Columbia (Lake City) – Emily Delgado (Fr.), Sakiya Merriex (So.), Luisa Taylor (Fr.), McKenna O’Sullivan (So.), Alexis Blair (Sr.), Kimber Long (So.)
Gainesville – Kameron Sumler (Sr.), Karter Thorp (Sr.), Michaela Cromarty (Sr.), Madison Dean (Fr.), Elise Knopf (Jr.)
Keystone Heights – Abbie Roach (Jr.), Kadence Massey-Hoadley (Fr.), Ashley Nugent (Jr.), Amberlea Wagner (Fr.)
P.K. Yonge – Sydney Corona (Fr.), Alison Santez (So.), Gabriella Mosley (Sr.), Brianna Garrison (So), Ashlyn Young (Fr.), Ryleigh Ingram (Sr.)
Santa Fe (Alachua) – Kaydence Davis (So.), Sarah Burns (Fr.), Montana Moen (Fr.), Mekanna Payne (So.)
Suwannee (Live Oak) – Haley Law (Jr.), Rachel Smith (Jr.), Brianna Woods (Fr.), Secora Pickles (Jr.), Braylyn Federico (Jr.), Zoie Hatch (Sr.)