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Fleming Island, Oakleaf snag softball titles

Broncos thumped, but still No. 1/KHHS, SJCDS in

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/69

MIDDLEBURG - With a first-ever district title going to Fleming Island's coaching duo of Jennifer and Baire Bucklew, the Golden Eagles joined a three-peat of district titles at Oakleaf High as area …

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Fleming Island, Oakleaf snag softball titles

Broncos thumped, but still No. 1/KHHS, SJCDS in


MIDDLEBURG - With a first-ever district title going to Fleming Island's coaching duo of Jennifer and Baire Bucklew, the Golden Eagles joined a three-peat of district titles at Oakleaf High as area softball teams gear up for region playoffs this week. The shocker of the week was a 4-0 loss by Middleburg to Gainesville in their 5A district championship.

"I think the loss last year to Ponte Vedra; (4-3 in district final with no region berth) kind of matured us over the off-season," said Fleming Island coach Jennifer Bucklew. "We have some good freshmen stepping up and playing strong ball."
Fleming Island, with a dominating 12-0 district semifinal win over Beachside, saw the Golden Eagles hammer 10 hits with 10 runs batted in for that win. For Fleming Island, Ashlyn Madine smashed a fourth-inning solo home run and double to lead the Golden Eagles. Olivia Sikes also doubled for Fleming Island eventually scoring off a Brooke Wilson single.
"It's unfortunate that we won our district and have to travel so far (Fort Walton Beach)," said Bucklew."I don't think Baire and I look at it as a daunting task. We have always thought this group has had the ability all along. We have in the past had good athletes, but were always missing one or two pieces."
Against Clay, Fleming Island's bats stayed hot with 13 hits and eight runs batted in; four in the sixth inning, doing the job.
"It's contagious, their hitting," said Bucklew. "It's fun to watch as they pass the bat along as we call it."
Against Clay, Fleming Island pitcher Mallory Blackwell squelched the Clay batting lineup for eight strikeouts to bolster strong defensive plays in the field.
Clay's bats exploded in the fifth with back-to-back doubles from Brooke Hamilton and Bailey Jackson to get their first runs.
Madine struck again with a double to open the sixth en route to their big scoring surge with five singles putting the final runs on the 8-1 final.
"Our captains have been leading by doing," said Bucklew. "Honestly, my freshman Jolee Rich, the catcher, has been our spark plug."
For Oakleaf, in district 3-6A, with a dominating 13-3 semifinal win over Buchholz, kept their bats rocking; four doubles: Avery Garcia, Maddox and two from Amya Mirelez, behind pitcher Charlotte Maddox's 12 strikeouts off the mound for 7-1 championship over Nease. The district title was the third for coach Heather Han with a 7A region final finish in 2022; a 5-2 loss to Lake Brantley.
"Right now, we are focused on Lake Howell because they have some good hitters that can do some damage," said Oakleaf coach Heather Han. "They also have pitchers that have kept hitters off balance."
Oakleaf rolled in their first at-bats with Jaydyn Beall singling in front of a Garcia's double, then Maddox and Desiree Norris both singled to score the inning 3-0.
Mirelez's double came after a single by Meshayla Pettaway to score the game 4-0 in the third.
Maddox opened the fifth with her double with Mirelez singling her into 5-1.
One aspect of the Oakleaf schedule that Han pointed to was a two-game stint that saw her Knights lose to Middleburg, then rebound with a win over top-ranked Baldwin that gave Baldwin their only loss of the season.
"I think losing to Middleburg helped us to see that we can be a great team with just a couple of adjustments and a little more effort," said Han. "Against Middleburg, we didn't make the adjustments quick enough, while Baldwin we came out swinging early."
In district 4-3A, Keystone Heights coach Jessica Marquart is known for her super tough regular season schedule and with top-ranked Baldwin and West Nassau in her final regular-season games, the Lady Indians may have felt a bit worn out in their 12-7 district final loss to Palatka.
"Our team knows that we need to play the best teams around to prepare for the postseason because it will be tough no matter what," said Marquart. "That is why we play 25 games to prepare us for the real season and that is what matters."
Keystone Heights opened with a 7-1 win over Taylor in district play behind 11 hits and seven runs batted in with senior Abbie Roach crushing two doubles followed by run-scoring singles.
Against Palatka, a big bat day from Keystone Heights' Ashley Nugent; a homer, double and single, was not enough after a six-run second inning by Palatka.
And, in region 1-5A, after a dramatic come-from-behind district championship win over rival Ridgeview High, a 4-3 win after being behind 3-0. The Lady Broncos again used their strong batting lineup for the Ridgeview win; a two-run homer from Kerri Clarida and the walk-off winner from KK Hagan. Clarida leads the team with 13 dingers with Hagan hitting eight.
Middleburg's junior pitcher Lily Bennett came in for starter Morgan Beckham for the final five innings and provided eight strikeouts to reverse a critical Middleburg field error for the Ridgeview early lead.
Unfortunately, the Bronco bats went quiet in their district championship against Gainesville and Gainesville's freshman sensation pitcher Leanna Bourdage who finished with an astounding 18 strikeouts to a 4-0 win by the Hurricanes.
In the loss, Middleburg's freshman sensation, second baseman Isabel Pifer, had two riveting diving stabs of Gainesville line drives to keep baserunners in the dugout. Pifer was the lone dent in Bourdage's arsenal with two walks, but two stops at second base.
For St. Johns Country Day School, an early 2-1 lead behind a triple from senior Jules Raimondo and a double from Gabi Oceguera, was the extent of runs for the Lady Spartans.
Raimondo stayed the course on the mound and, despite eight strikeouts, had innings with four and 10 runs (in the seventh); just two earned runs, as St. Johns lost 15-2. The Lady Spartans had nine errors in the field.
St. Joseph pitcher Jessica Camacho finished with 12 strikeouts and just one walk.

Region Softball Schedules

Region 1-2A (Wed., May 8)
Top Bracket: No. 8 St. Joseph Academy (7-9) at No. 1 University Christian (15-7); No. 5 St. Johns Country Day School (15-11) at No. 4 Trinity Christian Academy (8-12)
Bottom Bracket: No. 7 Countryside Christian (9-4) at No. 2 Providence (9-12); No. 6 North Florida Christian (8-14) at No. 3 St. John Paul II (15-7)
2023: University Christian beat Providence 8-3 in the region final. University Christian wins Class 2A title over Evangelical Christian 3-2. St. Johns Country Day School lost 16-1 to North Florida Christian in the quarterfinals.

Region 1-3A (Wed., May 8)
Top Bracket: No. 8 Palatka (11-15) at No. 1 Baldwin (26-1); No. 5 Marianna (16-8) at No. 4 North Bay Haven (20-5)
Bottom Bracket: No. 7 Keystone Heights (12-12) at No. 2 Episcopal (23-3); No. 6 Suwannee (16-10) at No. 3 West Nassau (16-8)
2023: Baldwin beats Episcopal 9-2 for region title. Baldwin lost 7-4 to eventual 3A champion Calvary Christian 3-0 in the state semifinal.

Region 1-5A (Thurs., May 9)
Top Bracket: No. 8 Columbia (13-11) at No. 1 Middleburg (21-4); No. 5 Deltona (18-5) at No. 4 Gainesville (20-4)
Bottom Bracket: No. 7 Fleming Island (19-7) at No. 2 Fort Walton Beach (17-10); No. 6 Matanzas (19-4) at No. 3 Gulf Breeze (14-9)
2023: Deltona beats Ridgeview in the region final 11-3. Deltona loses in the 5A final to Parrish Community 5-0. Middleburg lost to Fort Walton Beach 5-4 in the quarterfinals. Clay beat Gulf Breeze in the quarterfinals 4-1, and lost to Ridgeview 2-0 in the semifinals. Ridgeview lost to Deltona 11-3 in the region final.

Region 1-6A (Thurs., May 9)
Top Bracket: No. 6 Oviedo (12-12) at No. 1 Pace (23-2); No. 5 Winter Springs (15-13) at No. 4 Niceville (17-8)
Bottom Bracket: No. 7 Tate (15-11) at No. 2 Hagerty (21-5); No. 6 Lake Howell (15-9) at No. 3 Oakleaf (17-8)