While Tate (11-1, 5-0) is coming off a Class 7A state title last season and has held the upper-hand over Escambia in recent years, the Aggies and coach Melinda Wyatt won’t take anything for granted when they travel to face Escambia (15-2) on Thursday night at 6:30.
“(Thursday’s game) brings healthy competition for both teams,” Wyatt said. “Escambia is always gonna be competitive and scrappy, and they are always gonna play you for seven full innings.”
This season’s district realignment adds a little spice to the mix, as the two-loss Gators have joined Tate in 1-7A.
The winner of Thursday’s game will secure a front-runner spot in the district chase.
And according to Escambia senior Lauren Walker, the Gators have their heads in the right place for the tough test Tate brings.
“Our attitude is different this year,” Walker said. “We are really fighting this year, we didn’t have that last season. Every game we go out for, we want to win. We are a diverse group, but we work well together. We have a good mix of leaders and supporters and we all try our hardest to set good examples for the underclassmen.”
And while Thursday’s game will hold more significance than any prior for the Aggies or Gators, both teams know that it’s only March and this season features a long journey ahead.
“I know people are saying it is a huge game … and it is — but it’s not a game that is going to end anyone’s season,” Wyatt said. “It’s a game both teams will have to get through. Whichever team can hold their focus the longest will be the one that is gonna win.”
In addition to focus being key, Wyatt hopes to see continued improvement for her squad.
“Seems like we’re having a little trouble defensively in the past few games,” Wyatt said. “We’re doing just enough to keep winning. We should be doing more. If we are as good as we are gonna be, right now, then we are in trouble.”
For the Gators, Sarah Crutchfield and Hannah Driscoll identified hitting, communication and teammate support as keys to success on Thursday night.
Driscoll added a motivational phrase for her teammates.
“Gators gotta eat,” she said.
Escambia and Tate spent last weekend in Panama City participating in the Florida-USA Softball Challenge. Both the Gators and Aggies finished 3-1 in challenge-play.
District 1-7A Showdown
Where: Escambia High
Who: Tate Aggies vs. Escambia Gators
When: 6:30 p.m.
Skinny: Winner takes hold of No. 1 spot in District 1-7A.