For the fifth time in seven seasons, the Lady Seahawk softball team has advanced to the regional playoffs.
The Seahawks had sustained an 8-1 loss to the Liberty County Lady Bulldogs in their May 3 opener in the 1A District 4 tournament. The top-seeded Wewahitchka Gators, after defeating Bopzeman 10-0 in their opener, went on to defeat Liberty County 1-0 in 10 innings May 5 to claim the district title.
Under the new rules of the Florida High School Athletic Association, the region’s two district champions and the next two highest ranked teams make the playoffs.
The Seahawks learned they would advance when the final rankings were released Saturday morning.
The new computer FHSAA rankings ranked the Lady Seahawks 15th, eight spots higher than the next best team, Graceville, in the 13-team region.
“Based on a very tough strength of schedule and some big wins, our young team, which starts four middle schoolers, three freshmen, and one sophomore and one senior), are once again in the state playoffs,” said Coach Scott Collins.
The Lady Seahawks made the playoffs every year between 2015 and 2017, missed 2018, and returned in 2019, with 2020 canceled because of COVID-19.
“I knew this team was talented enough to make it, and I was hoping we could overcome our youth to beat out some very good teams in our region,” said Collins.
The Seahawks now travel to Wewa, which is ranked third in the state, on Thursday, May 18 to play in the regional semi-finals.
The winner will play the winner of the contest between 14th-ranked Liberty County and 30th-ranked Sneads, a surprise 5-2 winner in their district title game over Graceville.
The winner of the regional final advances to a trip to the Final Four.
Collins noted that had the Franklin County and Liberty County ranking been reversed, the Seahawks would be going up against Sneads in the regional semi-finals Thursday.
In last week’s district opener, Liberty County erupted with five runs in the top of the seventh to ice a game against the Seahawks in which the Bulldogs were clinging to a 3-1 lead going into the final stanza.
“They are a very good team,” said Collins.
During the regular season the Seahawks had downed the Bulldogs 4-3 in 10 innings in Hosford, and they won a 2-1 game in Eastpoint.
Both two teams had each scored once in the first inning, and Liberty County had added runs in the third and fifth.
Bulldog sophomore Kallan Mercer held the Seahawks to six hits, and struck out two and walked two in pitching a complete game.
Seahawk freshman Ryan Brown hit a pair of singles, and scored the team’s lone run, driven in by freshman Sarah Ham. Also managing hits were eighth-graders Averie Johnson and Lexi Webb, and freshman Micahlyn O’Neal.
Ham had struck out 11 and walked four in pitching a complete game, and gave up five earned runs on seven hits, including a p[air of home runs.
“We made three errors in the last inning, and gave up a couple hits and a walk or two,” said Collins. “It all happened at once and we weren’t able to get out of it.”