Softball teams in the Pensacola area proved that this zone is one of the best in the state as two teams (Jay, 1A; Tate, 7A) reached the state finals last season, with Tate capturing a state title.
And despite losing eight seniors from last year’s team to graduation, the Tate Aggies (7-0) have raced out the gates eager to prove they still have what it takes to be competitive at the state level.
“My teams always choose a motto about their season,” Tate coach Melinda Wyatt said. “This year’s group chose ‘Prove ’em wrong.’ Since we lost a lot of big players last year, a lot of people thought that we wouldn’t have an opportunity to do it again. We’re gonna be competitive, even with a different clientele than last year.”
Wyatt has seen defense lead the way for Tate, and has noticed team hitting coming along.
“We’re hitting it hard, but our hits aren’t finding a place to land right now — they seem to land in someone’s glove,” Wyatt laughed. “Defensively, we are pretty solid. But we have to start putting our hits together.”
Also in District 1-7A, the Escambia Gators (11-1) will clash with Tate on March 10 — potentially for first place in 1-7A. (Pace could shake things up with a win over Escambia on March 8.)
The Gators saw three seniors graduate, and under first-year head coach Glenn Bousquet have won their first three district games.
“We’re more of an older team this year … we’ve got seven seniors and six juniors,” said Bousquet, who has coached in Escambia’s softball program for 17 years and graduated from Escambia High in 1975. “We’re still putting the puzzle together, but we are heavy on the upperclassmen. Offensively we hit real well and our defense has been pretty sound. We’ve got two pitchers that battle. This team has been working hard and scraping out some wins.
“I think they are a bit hungrier this year.”
In Class 1A, the Jay Royals will aim to rebound to a one-run loss in extra innings of the state championship game, and have bounced out to a 5-1 record with perfect (2-0) district play this season.
The Royals lost just three seniors to graduation and are pursuing their third-consecutive trip to the Class 1A final four.
This weekend, several local teams will put district play on hold to compete in the Florida-USA Softball challenge.
The tournament features 32 teams from across the state, as Tate, Escambia, Milton, West Florida, Navarre and Pace will travel to Frank Brown Park (Panama City) for a two-day tournament beginning Friday.