A few more sports-related thoughts as the month of April winds down in Polk County…
* Congratulations to all the local state qualifiers who competed at last week’s Florida High School Athletic Association boys weightlifting state finals in St. Cloud (Class 3A) or Port St. Joe (Class 2A and Class 1A). Ridge Community’s Gregory Hendriz won a state title in the 183-pound class, with a 575-pound total lift. Runner-up finishes went to Haines City’s Ja’Darian Valentine (119-pound class, 385-pound total lift) and Bartow’s Duante Hall (219 class, 630 total) in Class 3A.
Lake Wales (five) and Auburndale combined for eight top-10 performances in Class 2A. Ayslan Outlaw (555 total) and Dylan Briggs (550 total) placed fifth and eighth, respectively, in the 169-pound class to help lead the Highlanders, while Arquis Ward of Auburndale had a fifth-place finish in the Unlimited Division with a 680 total that included a 395-pound lift in the bench press.
Frostproof’s Harper Henson placed fifth in the 238-pound class (585 total) in Class 1A and Lake Region’s Benjie Toussaint took seventh in the 129 class (405 total) in Class 2A. Bartow’s Derrick Floyd was also seventh in the 238 class (625 total) in Class 3A.
* Scoreboard watching will be a big deal this week. In particular, a slew of high school varsity softball and baseball games were scheduled for Monday (April 26) and Tuesday (April 27) – results were unavailable at press time – with regard to the FHSAA district tournaments. Checking for in-game scores is now commonplace, and certainly part of the postseason excitement is seeing which teams advance in a bracket.
District championship games involving area softball and baseball teams will be played this Thursday or Friday, weather permitting. District champions and runners-up advance to the regional quarterfinals in their respective class, with the exception of Class 1A where the regional tournament starts with the semifinal round.
Quiz: Name the college softball player who, as a current freshman, batted .326 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs during her opening 30 games. (See the answer below.)
* The FHSAA relied on its ratings system to seed softball and baseball district tournaments for the 2021 season and that fared well for several schools across the region.
The Bartow (Class 6A-District 6), Auburndale (Class 5A-District 9) and Lake Region (Class 4A-District 12) softball teams all earned No. 1 seeds and No. 2 seeds went to Lake Wales (4A-12), Frostproof (Class 3A-District 10), All Saints’ Academy (Class 2A-District 8) and Fort Meade (Class 1A-District 8).
On the baseball diamond, the following schools entered district play as a top seed: Bartow (Class 6A-District 7), Auburndale (Class 5A-District 8) and Fort Meade (1A-8). Winter Haven edged George Jenkins for the No. 2 seed in 6A-7, All Saints’ Academy was the No. 3 seed in 2A-8, No. 4 seed Lake Wales and No. 5 seed Lake Region faced each other in the opening round of the Class 4A-District 11 tournament, Haines City received the No. 5 seed in Class 7A-District 6, and Frostproof entered the Class 3A-District 9 tourney as a No. 5 seed.
* April 24 marked the last regular-season playing date for softball and baseball, but the FHSAA released the final rankings for both sports earlier in the week.
Bartow sported the highest rating in softball (22.015) and baseball (10.932) among programs in the Winter Haven Sun coverage area. The softball Yellow Jackets posted the fourth-highest mark in the state and the second-best behind Doral Academy (24.662) in Class 6A.
Auburndale, whose impressive 18.202 mark ranked second in Class 5A just behind New Port Richey River Ridge (18.303), Lake Region (12.065), Lake Wales (9.299), Winter Haven (6.167) and Frostproof (5.232) also recorded positive final ratings in softball.
Winter Haven’s baseball team won six of its final eight regular-season games – punctuated by last Friday’s 7-0 victory over Lake Region – and had a final rating of 7.466. Auburndale came in at 6.938, Lake Wales finished at 1.578 and Lake Region registered a 1.016.
* Bartow’s softball team went 22-3 in the regular season, finishing on a seven-game winning streak that included a 1-0 win over Auburndale on April 20 and last Thursday’s 6-4 extra-inning decision against Hardee.
Interestingly, Bartow has not lost a game this season when scoring at least one run (according to the results posted on the MaxPreps website). The Yellow Jackets dropped a 2-0 decision to Tarpon Springs East Lake in their fourth game and lost 1-0 to Auburndale on March 16 and 1-0 to Lithia Newsome on April 3.
* A lot of eyes will be on Lake Region High for this Saturday’s Class 3A-Region 2 track and field competition. Plenty of area talent is searching for a bid to the upcoming FHSAA state finals in Jacksonville, including those from Auburndale’s girls team.
The Bloodhounds celebrated the District 7 team title earlier this month in a meet also held at Lake Region. Auburndale totaled 165 points - nearly doubling Tampa Bay Tech’s second-place total of 83 – as senior Tyra Thomas qualified for regionals in four individual events.
Lake Wales and Lake Region placed second and third, respectively, in the boys’ District 7 team standings. The Highlanders and Thunder both qualified for the 3A-2 meet in six different events.
Quiz answer: Bartow High alum Gabi Schaal has earned significant playing time in her first season at Elon University in North Carolina.
The right-handed hitting infielder started 28 of 30 games and contributed her fourth double of the season to Elon’s 11-4 victory over the College of Charleston last Saturday.
The Phoenix are a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, whose championship softball tournament is scheduled for May 12 through May 14 in Harrisonburg, Va.