When the Jay Royals won the the regional finals game against Chipley on Friday, there was little room for celebration.
While the Royals and coach Brian Watson enjoyed earning the final out to advance, they also knew that they had a big week ahead of them.
The seasoned Royals will begin their quest for a state championship at 9:35 a.m. against Sneads, as Jay will play in its third state semifinal game in the last four years.
In the previous two attempts, the Royals advanced but lost in the state championship game.
“We’ve been down here before,” said Watson, referring to the state final four which is held in Vero Beach. “We’ve been runner-ups twice. I’ve had several girls who have played in two state championship games. This year we want to be on the other end of that final game. We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us. But we are excited.”
The Royals will aim to maximize practice time, with four full days and one long drive in between the regional final and Wednesday’s semifinal time.
“After winning on Friday, we had the weekend and we didn’t have much time to get on the field,” Watson said. “We did some hitting. But we have our first real practice on Tuesday night (in Vero Beach). We’re just gonna try to get everything going and worry about Jay.”
The Sneads Pirates enter the semifinal contest on a four-game win streak, with their last loss coming April 10 at Marianna.
Sneads will likely rely heavily on its pitcher Brooke Williams — who recorded 20 strikeouts in the regional final win over Central — and defense to set the tone of the 1A semifinal game.
“I expect a real close game,” Watson said. “Gonna be two real good pitchers. Might play some small ball at times. At the same time, I think we will try to put pressure on their defense a little bit. We’ve faced some good pitchers this year. I expect us to find our timing, get adjusted and hopefully we can barrel up some balls.”
• Who: Jay Royals (20-3) vs. Sneads Pirates (25-2)
• What: Class 1A state semifinals
• When: 9:35 a.m. Wednesday
• Where: Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach
• Players to watch: Jay — SS Michaela Stewart (.456, 1 HR, 40 runs, 14 RBIs); CF Harley Tagert (.436, 1 HR, 31 RBIs, 29 runs); P/1B Destiny Herring (12-2, 2.00 ERA; .390, 4 HRs, 32 RBIs); P/1B Dana Blackmon (8-1, 2.72 ERA; .449, 14 runs, 15 RBIs); Sneads — P Brooke Williams (24-2, 0.64, 143 Ks; .484, 27 RBIs, 41 runs); SS Nicolette Anico (.585, 1 HR, 40 runs, 24 RBIs); 1B Casey Grover (.423, 3 HRs, 32 RBIs, 25 runs).