PANAMA CITY BEACH — Twenty-one high school softball teams from as far away as South Florida will convene at Frank Brown Park on Friday and Saturday.
The Florida-Alabama Softball Challenge is a bit of a misnomer as no Alabama schools decided to attend the third annual event. In retrospect, considering that the tournament was rained out last February it is a minor speed bump although advertising and T-shirts already promoted the Alabama aspect which will not be present.
“The Alabama schools had four state champs two years ago and had a combined two wins so they decided not to come this year,” said Arnold head coach Rick Green, who organizes the event.
“The teams will be divided into East and West for the challenge. …. Next year we’re going to call it the Florida vs. U.S. Softball Challenge. We’ll have teams from Louisiana and maybe Texas coming.”
A total of 42 games will be played utilizing five of the fields at Frank Brown Park beginning 3 p.m. Friday. The final round of six games is scheduled to begin 3 p.m. Saturday.
Arnold and Mosley are the county schools participating, but the field also includes Port St. Joe, Chipley, Sneads and Liberty County among area schools.
Green said that pre-tournament favorites likely will be Fort Lauderdale Westminster and Montverde Academy, in addition to Niceville from the Panhandle.
“A coach told me that Westminster has four players already committed to Division I schools and Montverde is coached by Dot Richardson’s brother and has at least two,” Green said.
Each school will play four games. An overall team champion will be crowned with tie-breakers involved to separate undefeated schools.
Green said the format is attractive to not only area schools, but obviously the ones traveling a long distance to compete.
“It’s about playing the best teams in the state before you get into district play,” Green said. “We’re all trying to get better.
“Three teams out of Miami area coming. They want to play the best out of the North. When you play in the state tournament you haven’t got to play those other teams. Even if don’t play them, they get to watch them.”
A weekend admission pass is $10 with a daily pass $6. All middle school or travel ball players wearing a jersey will be admitted at half-price.
Schedule, with field number in parentheses:
3 p.m.— Florida High vs. Crestview (5), Navarre vs. Lincoln (6), Port St. Joe vs. Fort Walton Beach (7), Niceville vs. Montverde (8), Arnold vs. Yulee (9).
5 p.m.— Milton vs. Leon (4), Chiles vs. Tavares (5), Chipley vs. Killian (6), Sneads vs. Lincoln (7), Tate vs. Westminster (8), Liberty County vs. Yulee (9).
7 p.m.— Chiles vs. Crestview (5), Mosley vs. Killian (6), Sneads vs. Fort Walton Beach (7), Niceville vs. Westminster (8), Arnold vs. Tavares (9).
9 p.m.— Florida High vs. Mosley (5), Chipley vs. Leon (6), Port St. Joe vs. Milton (7), Tate vs. Montverde (8), Liberty County vs. Navarre (9).
9 a.m.— Tate vs. Killian (5), Fort Walton Beach vs. Liberty County (6), Port St. Joe vs. Yulee (7), Milton vs. Sneads (8), Arnold vs. Florida High (9).
11 a.m.— Westminster vs. Mosley (5), Sneads vs. Crestview (6), Lincoln vs. Montverde (7), Niceville vs. Chiles (8), Navarre vs. Killian (9).
1 p.m.— Chipley vs. Navarre (5), Fort Walton Beach vs. Westminster (6), Port St. Joe vs. Montverde (7), Niceville vs. Tavares (8), Arnold vs. Leon (9).
3 p.m.— Mosley vs. Tavares (4), Tate vs. Leon (5), Crestview vs. Liberty County (6), Lincoln vs. Yulee (7), Milton vs. Chiles (8), Chipley vs. Florida High (9).