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Trenton softball seeks return to championship standard

Trenton softball drew a crowd during its win over Branford earlier this month. (David Lopez/WUFT News)

In a small city of just over 2,000 people, the residents of Trenton value each of its attractions and success stories.

Sitting just at the southern edge of Gilchrist County, a high school softball team has found a way to become a mark of the city's pride.

This season, after an underwhelming 2023, the Trenton Tigers have returned to the form that made the team known as a softball powerhouse in Florida.

The Tigers grew into one of the best softball programs in Florida under previous head coach Todd Bryant, winning Class 1A state championships in 2019 and 2021.

Clint Anderson spent nine seasons as an assistant under Bryant and took the reigns as head coach in 2022, hoping to continue the success of the program.

After struggling to a 10-12 record in 2022 and a slight improvement to 16-9 the following season, Anderson’s Tigers were struggling to compete at the same level as Bryant’s championship teams.

Now in his third season, Anderson seems to have found the right formula, approaching the district playoffs with his girls donning a 16-2 record and currently ranked No. 8 in the state of Florida according to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FSHAA).

“There’s coaches before us that built this program and we're trying to stay on track with it,” Anderson said. “I think we're right now where we need to be at, but we can always be better.”

Trenton softball coach Clint Anderson watches his team in the first inning of Trenton’s 11-7 win over Branford. (David Lopez/WUFT News)

By all estimations, a school the size of Trenton should not be competing with the Class 6A programs above them in the FSHAA ranking.

In fact, at just 663 students in the school that serves grades 6 to 12, Trenton has less than half the enrollment of every other school ranked in the 10 best for softball in Florida.

It is a quality-over-quantity approach for the Tigers, with a coaching staff that has worked closely with the current roster over several years to develop one of the most talented teams in the program’s already successful history.

“I've worked with them on and off throughout their entire careers, through travel ball as well as through school ball,” said Trenton assistant coach Kevin Benson. “To just watch them as young ladies with a dream of becoming a lady tiger and competing for a state championship, just like the ladies in 2019 and 2021 that they were looking up to at that point… it's hard to put into words the excitement for this group.”

Preaching the routine and work ethic required of a championship-caliber team, Anderson and his coaching staff emphasize a practice schedule that is just as important as the team’s performance on game day.

With practices from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m. each day the team does not have a game, Anderson looks to keep the team as sharp as possible before stepping onto the field against some of Class 1A’s best teams.

“We have a little bit of time off after we get out of school and then we jump right into practice at 5:15,” said freshman Addison Allaire. “We just really make sure all of our attention is at practice and we get the work in that we need to get in.”

Allaire joined the varsity softball team in the sixth grade during Trenton’s title-winning 2021 season and earned a role as a starter just one year later.

Although she did not immediately star for Trenton, Allaire now represents a key to a lot of the Tigers’ success in 2024, hitting and pitching at a high level for her team including nine wins as a starting pitcher already.

Anderson quickly took notice of Allaire and the rest of the crop of talent left to him during his first year as head coach, nurturing the growth of players he hopes can bring

However, Anderson knows to not let the team get too ahead of itself.

“We can't come out with a big head and step on the field and think we're going to beat everybody,” Anderson said. “If we play our game, we stand a really good chance. If we don't play our game, it's trouble. We have to keep their heads from getting too big.”

The Trenton players are aware of the position they are in and the success it could lead to in the postseason, with just two games remaining in the regular season.

I do I think we have all the potential in the world to go and win state,” said junior Olivia Weaver. “We've already been pretty successful this year and I think we have a real chance if we just keep working hard and focus on taking it one game at a time.”

After a loss to Columbia High School broke an eight-game win streak for Trenton, the Tigers returned with an 11-7 win Thursday against Branford, a team ranked four spots behind Trenton in the Class 1A rankings.

The win represented much of what Anderson hoped to achieve with this year’s team, with each player on the Trenton roster seeing the field and playing a part in what turned out to be a statement victory for the Tigers in front of a large home crowd.

Trenton now looks ahead to games against Newberry and Fort White to guarantee home-field advantage in the regional round of Class 1A playoffs, an advantage the Tigers have used to build an undefeated 9-0 record in front of their fans.

The opponent or the location may not mean as much as the effort Trenton players give on the field though, with the team carrying the motto this season of being willing to do “whatever it takes.”

“We kind of push that to the girls as not necessarily making the highlight reel play but holding each other accountable on and off the field,” Benson said. “If we ask you to switch positions in the middle of a game, if you're struggling at the plate and put the extra time in after practice to get some extra swings in the cages, be willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

With everything to play for in the next few weeks, Clint Anderson and the Trenton Tigers look to reclaim the title they earned in 2019 and 2021: FHSAA Class 1A State Champions.

Trenton pitcher Addison Allaire (2) receives a mound visit after giving up a run against Branford. Allaire started the game for the Tigers and has nine pitching wins this season. (David Lopez/WUFT News)
Trenton pitcher Addison Allaire (2) receives a mound visit after giving up a run against Branford. Allaire started the game for the Tigers and has nine pitching wins this season. (David Lopez/WUFT News)

David is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing