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Plant City Observer Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018 7 months ago

Plant City, Crest to host district softball tourneys

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Class 8A-District 6 and 8A-District 4 play is set to begin April 23 and 24, respectively.
by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

Durant and Plant City will open up tournament play in the Class 8A-District 6 bracket April 23, while Strawberry Crest will kick things off the following evening. Both the Raiders and Chargers are hosting their respective tournaments in 2018.


8A-6

The Cougars and Raiders’ district is not easy to come out of. With the Bloomingdale Bulls turning in a solid season (18-6; 6-2 district) and an East Bay team (12-12; 4-4 district) that has the ability to hang with the top dogs, the Plant City-area teams will have their work cut out for them. Extra pressure is on the Raiders, who are defending the crown won in the 2016-17 postseason’s state final four run.

Plant City is well-equipped for the tournament, with 17 wins in the bag against five losses and the best runs scored-to-allowed differential in the district — 162 scored, 34 allowed through 22 games. An efficient defense and the arm of star junior Ashley Blessin (15-5, 0.82 ERA) could certainly help the Raiders repeat.

District play, however, has been an area where the Raiders haven’t dominated. The team has a 4-4 record in district play, third-best in 8A-6, and has lost to Bloomingdale (twice), Durant and East Bay. Plant City did finish regular-season district play on a high note with a 6-0 win at East Bay on April 12, though, and the team is undoubtedly hoping to ride that wave in next week’s action.

Durant may have a 12-10 overall record at the end of the regular season, but the Cougars turned a corner in March and look like a “dark horse” team to keep an eye on. The team owns a 5-3 district record (good for second place behind 5-2 Bloomingdale) and has scored the second-most runs — 52 — of all teams in 8A-6 play. The Cougars went 3-1 in their last four district games and came out ahead in a shootout against Bloomingdale (14-8) between blowout wins over Plant City (7-1) and East Bay (6-0).

The offense, led by the hot bat of two-sport athlete Kayla Lissy, is capable of producing the kind of firepower that can win most any game. If Durant and Plant City meet in a rematch of last year’s semifinal, that game could be the most exciting of the entire tournament.

 

8A-4

It hasn’t been the best season for the Strawberry Crest Chargers (10-14; 2-4 district), who sit in third place in the 8A-4 standings and have scored and allowed 24 runs in district play. They’ve also got a pair of tough matchup possibilities with Wharton and Freedom, which have both won at least 13 games. Wharton (13-5; 6-0 district) looks particularly fearsome in the bracket.

In Crest’s last three district games, the team has a 1-2 record. But that includes a pair of close calls at home against Freedom (5-3) and Wharton (2-1), plus a 4-1 win at Wiregrass Ranch on April 5. The Chargers have been tougher to play at home than on the road, and they’re now about to play a district tournament on their own turf. They also have perhaps the best position player in the tournament in middle infielder Taylor Finney, who leads all 8A-4 players with a .455 batting average, 35 hits and four triples in 24 games.

The 8A-6 tournament will start at 6 p.m. April 23 and 8A-4 tournament kicks off at 4 p.m. April 24. Both will conclude with  7 p.m. championship games on April 26.

Justin Kline is the Sports/Associate Editor at the Plant City Observer. He has been covering all things sports-related in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World since 2013.

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