Though it’s a new week of the postseason and a new round of the state playoffs, most of Tuesday’s regional quarterfinal softball matches will feature teams which are quite familiar with playing each other.
In town, the Tate Aggies will play host to Niceville — the fourth meeting between the teams this season — in the Region 1-7A semifinal at 7 p.m.
Though the Aggies won the most recent meeting in the district championship, Tate coach Melinda Wyatt said that the Aggies still feel like they are behind Niceville after losing the first two meetings.
“(Tate and Niceville softball rivalry) probably dates back many years before I was coach here,” Wyatt said. “The kids this year feel the same way about the rivalry. They beat us twice this year so we still feel like we are behind … I think it has been a little extra motivation for the kids. We feel like if we don’t bring our ‘A’ game then we won’t win.”
The Aggies will host their second-consecutive home playoff game, after besting Lincoln High, 6-1, on Thursday in the regional quarterfinals.
“Anytime you can play at home during the playoffs, it’s a plus,” Wyatt said. “It’s not a guarantee, but playing at home is an advantage.”
The West Florida Jaguars will also see a team for the fourth time in the region (1-4A) semifinals as the Jags’ travel to face Walton.
Unlike Tate, the Jaguars have yet to find a way to get past the Braves this season.
In Class 6A, the Milton Panthers will travel to Orange Park Oakleaf, a team which bested the Panthers in the regional quarterfinals last season.
“We had a chance to beat them last year,” Milton coach Danny Worrell said. “They beat us 2-1 and we gave up two unearned runs.”
The Panthers know to expect good pitching from Oakleaf’s Kelsey Sweat, who threw a three-hit shutout in the win over Pace on Thursday.
“Her rise ball is very effective,” Worrell said. “Hopefully we will lay off of it. We don’t want to be over aggressive.
“Our goal is to make it to the state final four. We just won our first playoff game in Milton softball history (on Thursday against Columbia). We are really confident right now, but I think it is going to be a great ball game at Oakleaf. We’ve just got to do whatever it takes to win. I think runs are going to be a premium in this game.”
In Class 1A, both Jay and Central will host semifinal games tonight.
The Royals will seek to get past Franklin County, a team which head coach Brian Watson has never faced.
“Our confidence is high right now,” Watson said. “We started the season 0-2 and we’ve been 20-1 since then. We know what our ultimate goal is for the season and what we’ve got to do to get there. Hopefully our playoff experience will play into our favor.
“Franklin County is a solid, defensive ball club. We’re gonna have to play our softball. We’ve gotta pitch well and play defense and we’ve got a chance to win.”
Central will also face an unfamiliar opponent when the Jags aim to defend home against Vernon.
“Coming off winning a district championship, we’ve got to continue to play at a high level,” Central coach Nick Golden said. “I haven’t had a chance to see Vernon play in person, but I expect them to be a tough ball club. They gave Sneads High — the No. 1 (1A) team in the state — a pretty good game.”
With a win in the regional semifinals, each team would advance to the regional finals on Friday — one step away from the state tournament in Vero Beach.
Region 1-7A semifinals
•Niceville at Tate, 7 p.m.
Region 1-6A semifinals
•Milton at Oakleaf, 6 p.m.
Region 1-4A semifinals
•West Florida at Walton, 6 p.m.
Region 1-1A semifinals
•Vernon at Central, 7 p.m.
•Franklin County at Jay, 6 p.m.