Softball: Previewing the DIAA state tournament first round

STATEWIDE – Barring inclement weather or unplayable field conditions, the 2018 DIAA softball state tournament is ready to get underway across the state of Delaware at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

Both the Lake Forest Spartans (12-6) and Milford Buccaneers (9-9) earned spots in this year’s field of 16.

The Spartans and Bucs are just two of the Henlopen Conference’s eight teams in this year’s field. The two schools will be joined by Smyrna, Sussex Tech, Indian River, Sussex Central, Delmar and Polytech.

Lake Forest (No. 10 seed)

Following a 14-3 loss to Sussex Tech back on April 24, the Lady Spartans dropped to 6-5 on the season.

Since that mercy-rule loss in late April, however, Lake went on a run and won six of the team’s last seven regular season games with their only loss over that span coming against the tourney’s No. 1-seeded Caravel Bucs.

The full 2018 DIAA softball state tournament bracket.

The Spartans have pitched seven shutouts this season and the team’s six losses this season all came against schools in this year’s state tournament field – DMA, Milford, Sussex Central, Smyrna, Tech and Caravel.

With the No. 10 seed in this year’s tournament, Lake Forest will have the opportunity to seek revenge against No. 7 Indian River in Saturday’s first round. It was IR who put the Spartans out of the tournament last season with a 7-4 win in the quarterfinals.

These two schools did meet in the regular season earlier this season, with Lake beating Indian River 6-1 at home Saturday, April 21. The Spartans collected its six runs on seven hits while starting pitcher Kaitlyn Stahre pitched a five-hitter against IR’s lineup.

Lake’s group of four seniors – Brittany Baker, Brooke Glanden, Stahre and Kayla Thompson – have now made tournament appearances in each of the last four seasons with the team. That tournament experience, including a state semifinal appearance in 2016, could come in handy heading into this year’s tourney.

Saturday’s first-round match-up is slated for 11 a.m. at Indian River High in Dagsboro.

Milford (No. 16 seed)

The defending champion Lady Bucs snuck into the tournament’s field of 16 as the No. 16 seed, earning a first-round match-up with No. 1 Caravel.

The Bucs dropped to 6-9 with a 11-0 shutout loss to Indian River Tuesday, May 8 but would go on a three-game win streak to end the regular season, defeating Middletown (8-5), Dover (14-12) and Seaford (13-1) to clinch the team’s second consecutive tournament appearance.

Milford will rely on its seniors – starting pitcher Morgan Abbott, second baseman Darby Brennan and centerfielder Kalaysia Reynolds – to provide the leadership and use what they learned during last year’s championship run as they head into this year’s tourney.

Milford hasn’t faced Caravel Academy since the state tournament of 2014, which ended with a 9-5 Caravel win in the quarterfinal round.

Saturday’s first round match-up is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch at Caravel.

Rest of field (all games currently schedule for Saturday, May 19)

No. 9 St. George’s at No. 8 Sussex Central (1 p.m.)

A win for the Henlopen North’s Lady Golden Knights (13-5) would set them up with a quarterfinals showdown against the Milford/Caravel winner.

No. 13 Mt. Pleasant at No. 4 Appoquinimink (1 p.m.)

Appo went 17-1 this season, suffering its lone loss to St. Georges Tech, 7-6, on Tuesday, May 8.

No. 12 Delmar at No. 5 Newark Charter (3 p.m.)

Last year’s state runner-up, the Delmar Wildcats went 11-7 this season, which included back-to-back losses to Lake Forest and Milford in early May.

No. 15 Polytech at No. 2 Smyrna (11 a.m.)

The Henlopen Conference champion Smyrna Eagles went 17-1 this season, with the squad’s lone loss coming by a score of 2-1 to the Indian River Indians in early April. The winner will face the Lake/IR winner in the quarterfinal round Tuesday.

No. 14 Padua at No. 3 DMA (3 p.m.)

Delaware Military Academy (15-3) lost its last game of the regular season, 2-1 against Smyrna, but had strung together a seven-game win streak prior to the one-run loss.

No. 11 Charter School of Wilmington at No. 6 Sussex Tech (1 p.m.)

The Sussex Tech Lady Ravens (16-2) suffered an early quarterfinals loss last year, but this year’s squad looks even stronger than 2017’s talented roster.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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