The Florida Class 6A softball playoffs begin Thursday and the bracket is loaded with five teams ranked in the MaxPreps Top 25.

The path to a state title features No. 5 Melbourne, No. 7 Pace, No. 9 Bartow, No. 12 Doral Academy, and No. 14 Bloomingdale (Valrico). The quintet has a combined record of 124-5. It would be hard to argue against this being the toughest path to a championship in the entire country.

The Southern Section Division 1 bracket in California also could make a case as three MaxPreps Top 25 teams are sprinkled throughout the 16-team pool of heavy hitters. ...

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