Caravel Academy Haley Grygo gets ready for a groundball. Photo by Nick Halliday

Inside The Circle: Softball tournament preview

Glenn FrazerHeadlines, Sports

Caravel Academy Haley Grygo gets ready for a groundball. Photo by Nick Halliday

Caravel Academy Haley Grygo gets ready for a groundball. Photo by Nick Halliday

The DIAA softball tournament begins Tuesday with eight games as the field of 24 will be chasing top seed and No. 1 ranked Caravel for this year’s title. The Buccaneers have won three consecutive championships and 13 overall. Here are our top 10 teams and how they are seeded:

No. 1 Caravel (14-1) The Buccaneers have won 8 straight since their only loss to out-of-state power Rising Sun (MD). Coach Randy Johnson’s Bucs have wins over 11 of the tournament seeds and closed the regular season with a 5-4 victory over Caesar Rodney (No. 13 seed), 3-1 against Laurel (5th seed), and 6-3 versus the 6th seeded Cape Henlopen Vikings. Kasey Xenidis has had a “special” season in the circle and at the plate. The Caravel offense is one of the best in the state with Haley Grygo,  Zayda Rocke, Leah Richardson, and Katrina Baran to name a few. They await the winner of the opening round game between No. 16 Newark Charter and No. 17 Delmar. 

No. 2 Sussex Central (16-2) Winners of 9 straight, the Golden Knights hold onto the No. 2 spot in our top 10 plus they are the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Coach John Wells Golden Knights have played in the title game 2 of the last 3 years, falling to Caravel both times by a single run. This is the final season for pitcher Madge Layfield who has won 70 games and is nearing 1,000 strikeouts for her career. Takyla Davis leads the offensive attack along with Lauren Myers and “Cat” Hassler. Central has defeated 13 of the tournament seeds including two 1-0 wins last week against No. 10 seeded DMA and No. 9 seed Conrad. The Golden Knights start the playoffs Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 15 Charter of Wilmington and No. 18 Sussex Academy.  


No. 3 Lake Forest (16-2) The Spartans have won 7 of their last 8 games and secured the 4th seed in this year’s tournament. The Henlopen-South champs finished the regular season with an impressive 8-2 win over St Marks. Junior Carah Sumpter has had a great season in the circle and she is one of the leaders at the plate along with Rylan Rust, Katie Pierce, Bayli Glanden and Chloe Revelle. The Spartans are 11-2 against the tournament field with close losses to Sussex Central and Smyrna. Lake will meet the winner of No. 13 Caesar Rodney and No. 20 St George’s in the second round Thursday.

 No. 4 Laurel (13-5) Laurel lost to top seed Caravel and No. 9 seed Conrad to complete the regular season. Only a win over St Marks in Mid-April keeps them one spot ahead of the Spartans in our rankings. The Bulldogs are the No. 5 seed in the tournament as senior Kylee Hill leads the team with her “nasty” off speed pitches. She is one of just two seniors on a team that should be good again next year. Bailey Ullman is one of the top hitters in the state and has been very consistent. Laurel will get the winner of the  No. 21 Delmarva Christian vs No. 12 Indian River opening round game on Thursday.  


No. 5 St Marks (14-2) The Spartans lost 2 of their last 3 games to No. 3 Lake and No. 2 Sussex Central, but also defeated top 10 Appo.  Chloe Bedwell, Morgan Hall, and Pia Perrone lead the team at the plate. Gabby Saggione and Liv Datilio both have impressed in the circle. St Marks was awarded the 3-seed in the tournament and will host the opening round winner of the game between No. 19 Sussex Tech at No. 14 Middletown.    


No. 6 Cape (14-4) The Vikings have steadily improved all season winning 8 of their last 9 games. The only loss was 6-3 to top ranked and No. 1 seed Caravel. Abby Marsh leads the team from the circle and is dangerous with the bat. Her team is solid in the field and at the plate with Alivia Heers, Ava Calciano, Hayden Hudson. The outfield is strong with Windish, Roundtree, and Justice. Cape is the 6th seed and will be the winner of the game between No. 22 Concord and the No. 11 seed Polytech. The Vikings beat Polytech 12-4 during the regular season. 


No. 7 Polytech (15-3)  The Panthers are the 11-seed, and in my opinion are “under-seeded” and the most dangerous of the teams playing in the opening round. Polytech’s three losses came to the 2-seed Central, the 4-seed Lake and the 6-seed Cape. Mara Everton is one of the top pitchers in the state with 200 K’s for the second consecutive year and she has recorded 12 shutouts in her 15 victories. Rachel Carey collected the 100th hit of her career this season, and the Panthers also rely on Cheyenne Silves, Mackenzie Mitchell, Brianna Benton, and Gabi Bogdon for offense. The Panthers face the No. 22 seed Concord in the opening round Tuesday with an opportunity to face Cape again in round two.


No. 8 Smyrna (12-6) Under first-year head coach Nina Marcano, the Eagles have mounted a 6-game winning streak and won 9 of their final 10 games to get “hot” at the right time. The Eagles defeated Appo, DMA, Lake and Caesar Rodney in that span. 

Freshman Lexi Dennis has been “special” down the stretch, while Cimone Edge, Kaitlyn Slaney, and Hailey McCutchen anchor the offense. The Eagles get the winner of the opening round game between No. 9 seed Conrad and No. 24 William Penn.


No. 9 Appo (14-4) The Jags dropped three of their final 5 games to Smyrna, St Marks and Caravel and received the No. 7 seed in this year’s playoffs. Don’t count coach Brian Timpson’s team out of this tournament just yet. Appo has a “top notch” pitcher in junior Ayla McCathern, and a potent offense led by Mia Boyd, Lauren Foltz, Brianna Russo and Sophia Miller. The Jags await the winner of the first round matchup between the No. 23 seed Milford and the No. 10 seeded DMA. 


No. 10  DMA (13-5) The Seahawks had a 7-game winning streak snapped by Sussex Central in a 1-0 loss to end the regular season. The No. 10 seeded team in the tournament, is also a very dangerous draw. The ‘hawks out-hit Central 5-3 in that close loss. DMA posted wins over Indian River and Caesar Rodney in the latter part of the season. All 5 defeats came to top 10 opposition. Coach Roman Allin’s Seahawks open the tournament against the 23rd seeded Milford Buccaneers.  


It should be a very interesting tournament, culminating May 31st at the University of Delaware, under the lights.

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