Three area softball teams advanced to their respective state tournaments last season.
Tate, Jay and West Florida High all made history in 2014 as they represented the Panhandle in Vero Beach, but while they may have put the rest of the state on notice, the road back will only get tougher.
“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” Jay coach Brian Watson said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best game and we know that.”
After winning the District 3-1A title for three consecutive seasons (and advancing to the state title game in ’14 and ’12) the Royals know they are a team with a target on its back.
“We’ve kind of turned into a measuring stick,” Watson said. “Everybody wants to beat us. That’s why we’re trying to challenge our goals to get better every day.
“We’ve already played Pace and they beat us 13-3. Last year we beat them both times we played.”
The biggest question for the Royals this season, and one that could determine their success, will be who ends up replacing Chassity McCranie in the circle after graduating her in the offseason.
Defending Class 4A champion West Florida High finds itself in a similar situation after graduating not only star pitcher Korina Rosario (2014 Florida Miss Softball), but a number of role players as well.
While the team returns a fair number of faces from the 2014 campaign, the likes of Jordaine Wakins, Kathleen Smiley and Nachelle Watson are not easily replaced.
The Jaguars opened the season as one of MaxPreps’ 2015 Florida Softball Fab 5 teams, but early struggles against Escambia and Gulf Breeze have only confirmed the team has a giant target on its back.