For the most part, the teams opening up play in the state softball tournament at Dodgertown on Friday are the usual South Florida suspects.
There are Broward powers American Heritage and St. Thomas Aquinas — with 10 state titles between them — as well as Coral Springs Charter going for its second consecutive title.
Miami Palmetto hasn’t won a state championship since 2008, but the Panthers have three trophies in their case to brag upon.
Then there’s Western.
The Wildcats are at the state final four for the first time since 2002 and playing in a state semifinal game for just the second time in the school’s history.
“They’re extremely excited,” said Western coach Jeffrey Poole, whose team lost in the regional semifinals to Douglas last season.
“We’ve talked about it since the start of the year after we came close last year with a somewhat different group of girls. This was the goal and to finally reach it … we’ve come a long way, played a lot of games. But we’re focused and ready for the next step.”
Western (23-6) is on the north side of the Class 9A bracket opposite of Palmetto, so victories by both on Friday would lead to a Dade-Broward championship game on Saturday.
The two teams haven’t met this season.
Western moved through its bracket with wins over Taravella and Monarch before running into Jupiter in the regional final. The host Wildcats took a hard-fought 2-1 win and know there is more at stake now.
The Wildcats play West Orange in one semifinal Friday at 6:35 p.m.; Palmetto — which beat Lourdes, Coral Reef and American to get to Vero — opens with Tampa Alonso at 7:50.
“On one hand, it’s really cool to be one of the four teams left and make it to state,” Poole said, “but we cant be happy with just that. The time for that is later. We still have some business left to do and that’s win two games and get a state title. We’re focused on that.
“It has been a great season for us and it’s still going. It’s May, and we’re still playing, and that’s a bit unusual for us. This is all new to us, but the girls are focused.”
As for the rest of South Florida’s teams, experience in such pressure-packed environs is most important.
American Heritage, St. Thomas and Coral Springs Charter are all back in Vero Beach once more yet only Mark Montimurro’s Panthers brought home a championship last year.
St. Thomas lost its bid for a third consecutive title by losing to Sarasota 3-1 in the semifinals last season while Heritage’s try for a second consecutive crown was thwarted in a 1-0 upset to Baker County in the championship game.
The Raiders are 22-4 after knocking out Cooper City to advance to Vero Beach for the fourth consecutive year.
American Heritage, whose coach Marty Cooper has led the Patriots to all six of their state titles since 2004 which is tied with Gulliver for third-best all-time, is 24-2 after beating Rockledge in the regional finals.
Coral Springs Charter was Florida’s lone unbeaten at 29-0-1 last year, but heads into its Class 5A semifinal Friday morning against South Sumpter with three losses on their ledger.
The Panthers (24-3) haven’t lost since April 6 against Palm Beach Gardens and are riding a six-game winning streak.
Coral Springs Charter blew through its bracket beating Clewiston, Lincoln Park and Gulliver by a combined 28-1.
“The experience of lifting the trophy last year was such a monumental moment in their lives and they think they have a chance to do it again,” said Mark Montimurro, whose team is attempting to become the fifth from Broward to win consecutive titles and first since St. Thomas did it two years ago. Montimurro accomplished the feat himself with Hollywood Christian in 2003-04.
“They’ve been really focused on that and we loaded up our schedule this year to test ourselves. That is really helping us as we move forward.”
If you go
What: Florida state softball finals.
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Historic Dodgertown, 3901 26th St., Vero Beach.
Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $10 for cars; $25 for buses.
2015 state champions: Class 8A: Lithia Newsome; 7A: Cantonment Tate; 6A: Ocala Forest; 5A: Baker County; 4A: Coral Springs Charter; 3A: Lakeland Christian; 2A: Monticello Aucilla Christian; 1A: Chiefland.
Thursday’s semifinal schedule: Class 1A: Wewahitchka vs. Lake Butler Union County, 9:35 a.m.; Chiefland vs. Franklin County, 9:35 a.m.; Class 2A: St. Petersburg Canterbury vs. Monticello Aucilla Christian, 9:35 a.m.; Boca Raton Grandview Prep vs. Mount Dora Christian, 9:35 a.m.; Class 3A: Jacksonville University Christian vs. St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut, 12:35 p.m.; Fort Pierce John Carroll vs. Lakeland Christian, 12:35 p.m.; Class 4A: Fort Myers Bishop Verot vs. Jacksonville Trinity Christian, 12:05 p.m.; Westminster Christian vs. Montverde Academy, 12:05 p.m.
Thursday’s championship schedule: Class 1A: 2:35 p.m.; Class 2A: 2:35 p.m.; Class 3A: 8:05 p.m.; Class 4A: 5:35 p.m.