The Barron Collier and Naples softball teams hope the next chapter in their heated rivalry comes in the playoffs. For that to happen, both teams must first take care of business in Thursday’s regional quarterfinals.
The Cougars (21-4) beat Naples in the Class 6A-District 14 championship game to earn the right to host Fort Myers in the first round of the state playoffs. The Golden Eagles (20-5) play at District 13 champ Riverdale in the quarterfinals.
After winning its first district title, Golden Gate (20-7) hosts Cape Coral-Mariner tonight in 5A. St. John Neumann also plays today and must travel to West Palm Beach-King’s Academy in the 3A regional quarterfinals.
If both Naples and Barron Collier win Thursday, they’ll face off in the regional semifinals Tuesday. It would be the fourth meeting between the rivals this season.
“We get to extend our season,” Naples coach Robert Iamurri said after his team lost to Barron Collier in the district final. “We just have to go to someone else’s field to do it. At this point in the year it’s whoever can string five wins together (that wins state).”
Barron Collier coach Tom Resop said he expects to see Naples again this season, but the Cougars aren’t taking Fort Myers lightly.
Chemistry and experience have guided the Cougars this season. They have eight starters back from last year’s district champion, including a handful of juniors in their third year starting.
“We have to stay together and play as a team,” junior Kailee Davidson said. “We have to keep picking each other up.”
Today’s regional represents the continued evolution of the Golden Gate softball program.
This is the fourth straight season the Titans set a school record for victories. Before that, the program had never had a winning season. Last year, Golden Gate qualified for regionals for the first time but lost on the road.
With their first-ever home playoff game, the Titans also would love to get their first-ever win in the state tournament. Golden Gate played Mariner (13-11) twice in the regular season, losing 5-1 in the first matchup and winning the next 3-2.
Neumann is in regionals for the seventh time in 10 seasons after missing the playoffs last year. The Celtics (8-12) have just one victory during that time, which came in 2006.
King’s Academy won a regional championship last season.