Entering the last two weekends of high school softball state championships in the Midwest, there was still a chance for a lot of shakeups in the final Extra Elite Eighty High School Rankings for the 2019 season.
Both of the two highest ranked teams in the region -- which typically starts and ends the high school season several weeks later than most other states due to the weather -- capped off unbeaten seasons, but the third highest fell short in Illinois.
In Saturday’s Kentucky High School Athletic Association state final, Male of Louisville surged in the late innings to beat Warren East (Bowling Green) 6-1. The Bulldogs trailed 1-0 after the top of the fifth inning, but scored twice in the bottom of the fifth and then four times in the sixth.
Kelsie Houchens pitched a five-hitter and struck out nine for Male and was an ace all season. Outfielder Jaelyn Sanders plated the first run with an RBI double and smacked a bases-loaded three-run double that gave the Bulldogs plenty of breathing room.
Male became just the second Kentucky team to go unbeaten since the KHSAA went to fast-pitch playoffs in 1995. It’s also important to note that just like in other sports there are no divisions in Kentucky high school softball playoffs. The Bulldogs have won an all-class format bracket.
For this week’s final rankings, Male was given a one-spot bump from No. 8 to No. 7.
In the Wisconsin Division I state final from the previous weekend, unbeaten Oshkosh North needed extra innings to get past two-time defending champion Sun Prairie, 4-2.
National player of the year candidate and Northwestern-bound Sydney Supple struck out 11, ended with a state tourney record 36 strikeouts in all of her playoff games and called it “a dream come true” to reporters when asked about the season and how it ended.
The Spartans finished at No. 10 as they broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth vs. Sun Prairie when a pop-up hit by Supple was dropped for an error. Teammate Sophie Averkamp then delivered an RBI single. Supple then pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth for the state title.
The third of the top-ranked Midwest teams over the past two weekends didn’t have similar success. Previous No. 15 Marist of Chicago, in fact, had to drop out of the final rankings after losing in the semifinals and then in the third-place game of the Class 4A state playoffs in Illinois. For the final rankings, 4A champ Huntley was put in as one of six final newcomers.
There also wound up being no teams from Michigan in the final rankings as both Hartland and Clarkston (which were in the most recent Extra Elite Eighty ranked team) lost in the Division I state playoffs.
The eventual champion of that bracket, Regina of Warren, finished with 11 losses, but once again proved never to bet against legendary head coach Diane Laffey.
In her 49th season (that’s not a typo, that’s 49), her girls captured her seventh state title (against no losses) with a 3-2 win in eight innings on Saturday against Howell.
Congratulations to all of the teams that have been in this season’s Extra Elite Eighty.
(Previous ranking in parentheses)
(Through games of Saturday June 15)
1. (1) Winter Springs (Winter Springs, Fla.) 31-0
2. (2) Norco (Norco, Calif.) 31-1
3. (3) Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton, Fla.) 30-1
4. (4) Foothill (Pleasanton, Calif.) 28-0
5. (5) Katy (Katy, Texas) 37-2
6. (6) Coral Springs Charter (Coral Springs, Fla.) 29-1
7. (8) Male (Louisville, Ky.) 39-0
8. (7) Klein Collins (Klein, Texas) 38-3
9. (9) Angleton (Angleton, Texas) 39-2
10. (10) Oshkosh North (Oshkosh, Wis.) 31-0