SPRINGFIELD — Every year, at least in some sports, coaches look at the upcoming matchups for a district tournament and borrow on the NFL mantra of “any given Sunday.”
A cursory glance at the District 1-5A softball tournament beginning Monday at Rutherford not only borrows on that theme, it takes it to another level.
Gulf Breeze earned the No. 1 seed off its 8-2 regular-season district record. However, Mosley and Arnold needed a coin flip to decide the No. 2 seed, as both were 7-3 in district and with a head-to-head win against the other. Mosley won the flip, relegating Arnold, possibly the hottest team coming into the tournament, to No. 3.
Then there is host Rutherford, which is 6-4 and enters as the No. 4 seed out of six schools.
“This is my seventh year (at Arnold) and this is the most competitive district I’ve seen,” Arnold coach Rick Green said. “Anybody can beat anybody. (Fifth seed) Choctaw has been ahead of every one of us and got beaten at the end. They may be the surprise team.
“Rutherford can beat anybody. They can hit the ball. Just like the rest of us, if you’re not on your A game, you’re not going to win. We’ve been fortunate the last five or six games have brought out our A game.”
Arnold, 17-7, won its final six district games after a 1-3 start. Bay comes into the tournament winless in district, but played Mosley to a one-run game late in one encounter, and is far from an automatic mercy-rule victim.
The event opens with Arnold meeting Bay at 5 p.m. Monday, followed by Rutherford and Choctawhatchee at 7 p.m. Mosley awaits the first-game survivor at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and Gulf Breeze gets the Rutherford-Choctawhatchee winner at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The semifinal winners will advance to the Region 1-5A tournament and also play for the district championship at 6 p.m. Thursday. All games will be played at Rutherford, with a possible exception if Choctawhatchee eliminates host Rutherford on Monday. In that case, Gulf Breeze would host Choctaw on Tuesday.
Head coach Brian Wilke of Mosley, 13-6 overall, has seen his team lose out on the top seed with losses to Rutherford and Arnold near the finish of the regular season. He is hopeful, however, of another playoff run like the one that came an eyelash from reaching the 6A final four last spring.
“We’ve had a little lull, nothing major,” Wilke said. “Not getting hits at the right time. We’ve probably got as good of pitching as anybody. Everybody is pretty balanced, so it could come down to not making a bad play at the wrong time.
“We’ve got some who have been in playoffs for three years, and last year went a long ways. I think that will help us when we get in a playoff atmosphere.”
1-5A, at Rutherford
Monday: Bay vs. Arnold 5 p.m., Choctawhatchee vs. Rutherford 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Mosley vs. Bay-Arnold winner 5 p.m., Gulf Breeze vs. Choctawhatchee-Rutherford winner 7 p.m.
Thursday: Championship 6 p.m.
1-1A, at Bethlehem. Also includes Central, Laurel Hill, Malone, Paxton, Ponce de Leon and Poplar Springs.
2-1A, at Blountstown. Also includes Cottondale, Graceville, Sneads, Vernon and Wewahitchka.
3-1A, at Baker. Also includes Chipley, Holmes County, Jay and Northview.
4-1A, at Port St. Joe. Also includes Bozeman, Franklin County, Liberty County and South Walton.
All tickets will be $6 at the gate. Only FHSAA state series passes may be accepted from guests.