PREVIEW: CF Softball heads to FCSAA State Tournament

PREVIEW: CF Softball heads to FCSAA State Tournament

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OCALA- The College of Central Florida softball team opens up play on Friday in the FCSAA Softball Tournament at Dodgertown in Vero Beach.

The Patriots (51-7), the state's top-ranked team and the No. 2 team in the nation, are trying to advance to the NJCAA National Tournament for the second consecutive season.

CF, who spent six weeks at the top of the NJCAA National Poll, opens up tournament play against Tallahassee Community College on Friday at noon.

The CF/TCC game is a rematch of last year's state championship game, won by the Eagles. The Patriots, though, got the last laugh at nationals by advancing to the national championship game, while TCC went 0-2.

This will be third meeting this season between CF and TCC.

The Patriots swept a doubleheader between the schools in early March at home by scores of 3-2 and 3-0.

In the 3-2 win, CF rallied from down two runs with three runs in the fifth, capped by a two-run homer by Edrienne Williams

From there, the Patriots got a complete-game six-hitter from Autumn Hanners for the sweep.

Hanners (21-5, 1.85 ERA) teamed with Holly McKinnon (27-2, 0.99 ERA) to hold TCC without an earned run in 14 innings.

On the year, Hanners (.348, 14 HR, 52 RBI), Cheyenne Blaha (.348, 6 HR, 51 RBI) and Taylor Morrow (.406, 8 HR, 48 RBI) have led the way for CF.

The Patriots will enter the tournament on a four-game winning streak, aided by a sweep of Indian River State, the nation's No. 6 team.

Overall, CF is 8-2 against teams currently ranked in the NJCAA Top 20.

They'll get a TCC team that enters the tournament with a 29-15 overall record and a former member of the national top 20.

The Eagles finished fourth in the Panhandle Conference this season.

Last year, TCC won the Panhandle Conference and bounced back from an opening game loss at state to win the Gulf District Tournament.

CF won all five of its games against Panhandle Conference foes, the first time it accomplished this in school history in the sport of softball. 

Aside from the impressive run by the Patriots over the past two seasons, there are some other notable differences in the state. 

Things have changed tournament wise, as the Atlantic and Gulf Districts are no more and a 16-team double-elimination event has taken its place. 

The tournament has also moved from Pensacola to Vero Beach, the site of the FHSAA State Softball Championships.

CF won the Atlantic District Tournament with a win over Indian River State, following an 8-7 win over rival Santa Fe in 11 innings. 

It marked the second year in a row that the Patriots played for the Atlantic District Championship.

Now, the Patriots will look to continue their historical run and make it consecutive berths to the national tournament after never coming close before the 2013 season.

CF had never finished better than fourth in the Mid-Florida Conference until coach Kevin Fagan took over two years ago.

The Patriots followed up their runner-up spot in the Mid-Florida Conference by winning their first-ever league title this spring.

A win by CF in its opener at state and it advances to face the winner between Polk State and Palm Beach State on May 1 at 5 p.m.

CF went 3-2 vs. Polk during the regular season, including a 2-0 loss to the Eagles in Vero Beach. 

A loss and the Patriots would fall into the elimination bracket and take on the loser between Polk and Palm Beach.

The tournament championship game is slated for Sunday at 2 p.m.

CF's opening game will be streamed lived on NJCAA Region 8 tv. Watch it live here.

CLICK HERE to follow the weekend's action vs CF Softball Gamechanger live stats.