Next week marks the district softball tournaments around the state of Florida.
Or, in Osceola County, time for Osceola and St. Cloud to dominate.
The Kowboys and Bulldogs are the No. 1 seeds in their respective tournaments, and look to extend district championship strings to four and five with wins next week.
Osceola (16-9) is an overwhelming favorite to overwhelm the District 9A-5 field, who it outscored 80-9 in six regular season games. The Kowboys will host on Gateway (2-15) Tuesday at 7:30. The winner will play the winner of Monday’s Haines City-Ridge semifinal in Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game at Osceola.
OHS has been led all year by the top of its lineup. Rylee Andrews leads the team with 29 runs from the leadoff spot, shortstop Audra Thompson is batting .479 with 35 hits and 28 RBI, and both have reached base in more than half of their plate appearances. Shelby Jones’ pitching (10-5, 1.94 ERA, 130 strikeouts in 112 innings) has held the opposition at bay.
St. Cloud (18-5-1) rolls into the District 8A-10 tournament, which it hosts, having scored 37 runs in its last three games, a stretch that includes rivals Osceola and Tohopekaliga and a 13-9 win Tuesday over Montverde Academy; Taylor McFann and Ariana Manzanares homered in the game.
“That was a great way to go into the postseason, and I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” Bulldogs Coach Ray Whobrey said. “The girls are hitting well and playing good defense, so everyone’s feeling pretty good.”
Alyssa O’Donnell has been a force at the plate (team-high .391 batting average, .556 on-base percentage) and in the pitching circle (12-4, 1.64 ERA, 122 Ks).
The Bulldogs, the 8A-10 No. 1 seed, await the winner of the No. 5-6 matchup Monday at 5 between Tohopekaliga and Celebration, and play them Tuesday at 7:15.
Liberty (9-6), the No. 3 seed, plays East River on Monday at 7:30 p.m. The winner will face No. 2 Windermere (16-5) on Tuesday at 5 p.m., and the championship is Thursday at 7:15.
St. Cloud needed a rally from 2-0 down to Windermere with two outs in the sixth in last year’s district championship game.
In the District 7A-6 tournament at Palm Bay Heritage, Harmony (9-9) is the No. 4 seed and will take on host Heritage on Monday at 6 p.m. A matchup with No. 1 seed Viera (14-7) looms for the winner at 5 p.m.
Taylor Barrett leads the team in offense with a .317 batting average and, more importantly, has been overpowering in the pitching circle with 185 strikeouts in 84 innings and an 0.74 ERA. She’s had a pair of 20-strikeout games, including a 28-whiff, 11-inning effort in a 3-0 loss to Viera.
City of Life (11-8) is the No. 4 seed in the District 2A-3 tournament at Geneva. The Warriors take on Clermont Real Life Christian on Monday at 2 p.m. for the right to play No. 1 Mount Dora Christian on Tuesday at 2.
Regional quarterfinal playoff games, between district champions and runners-up, will be on May 8.