A dreamlike matchup of 30-0 teams for the Florida Class 8A state championship that also would decide the mythical national championship remained on track to happen this weekend as the race for the final No. 1 ranking became much more clear in the past week.
Current No. 1 Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton, Fla.) has been tearing up its foes so far in the postseason with a 60-1 scoring margin in five games. The Mustangs stamped their ticket to Thursday’s Class 8A state semifinals with a 12-0 victory over Sickles (Tampa, Fla.). They will look to avoid the upset in a matchup with 19-6-1 Cooper City.
The other Class 8A semi in Florida is more intriguing. Current No. 2 and unbeaten Winter Springs is going to have to get past another nationally ranked team, Oakleaf (Orange Park, Fla.), in its game.
Oakleaf was a finalist in the division last year and lost by just 5-4 to Lakewood Ranch at the Kissimmee Klassic.
Winter Springs had a close game in the playoffs when it edged defending Class 8A state champion Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.) 4-3, but had an impressive 13-0 romp past Wellington (Fla.) in the game it needed to win to advance to the semifinals. Wellington only lost 4-3 earlier to Lakewood Ranch.
One team rooting for Oakleaf to take out both Winter Springs and Lakewood Ranch is Norco of California.
The Cougars put themselves into position to move up to No. 1 in the final national rankings if there’s no unbeaten team standing in Florida Class 8A by winning the CIF Southern Section Division I title last Friday 2-0 over Great Oak of Temecula.
The Cougars became the first team to repeat in that very loaded bracket since Valencia in 2007-08 behind the pitching of Washington-bound junior Sara Willis and RBIs from Kyleigh Sand and Paige Smith.
California, which doesn’t have state playoffs, also may have an unbeaten team if current No. 4 Foothill (Pleasanton) can win twice this week and win its second CIF North Coast Section Division I title in three years. The Falcons were runner-up last season in that bracket to their arch-rivals from Amador Valley (Pleasanton).
Texas isn’t going to have an unbeaten champion in the Class 6A or Class 5A state playoffs.
There are some showdown matchups in this weekend’s regional finals, including Extra Elite Eighty No. 5 Katy vs. No. 26 Deer Park in 6A, No. 9 Keller vs. No. 18 V.R. Eaton in 6A and No. 12 Angleton vs. No. 13 Barbers Hill in 5A.
The Texas state championships will be conducted the following weekend (May 31-June 1).
(Previous ranking in parentheses)
(Through games of Tuesday, May 28)
1. (1) Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton, Fla.) 29-0
2. (2) Winter Springs (Winter Springs, Fla.) 29-0
3. (3) Norco (Norco, Calif.) 31-1*
4. (4) Foothill (Pleasanton, Calif.) 26-0
5. (5) Katy (Katy, Texas) 33-2
6. (6) Klein Collins (Klein, Texas) 36-2
7. (7) Keystone (LaGrange, Ohio) 26-0
8. (8) Coral Springs Charter (Coral Springs, Fla.) 27-1
9. (9) Keller (Keller, Texas) 33-3-1
10. (10) Male (Louisville, Ky.) 32-0