Coaching curveball

Baseball, 5-2, begins trek back to state championship under new staff

Pitcher Bailey Wendel pitches to a batter from University High School. The team won the Thursday night game,  7-3.

photo by Bailey Fisher

Pitcher Bailey Wendel pitches to a batter from University High School. The team won the Thursday night game, 7-3.

Bryson Turner, Opinions Editor

The varsity baseball team is heading in a new direction after a heart-wrenching loss in the state finals to Steinbrenner last year. The departures of former head coach Jerad Goodwin for Florida International University and star players Joe Sheridan, Travis Hosterman and Austin Thompson for college ushered in a new year for the team, along with a new coaching staff led, by head coach Matt Cleveland.

“I thought the guys were very respectful and ready to work, which is a testament to the kind of program I inherited,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland’s arrival and the departure of Goodwin to FIU greatly shook up the team dynamic, especially after their brush with the state title.

“[Goodwin] was one of the best coaches that ever coached me. He made a big impact on me, so it’s hard trying to get used to a new coaching staff,” outfielder Riley Greene said. “It’s hard to get used to, but every day we’re buying into the process.”

Over the offseason, the returning members of last year’s team attempted to maintain the work ethic that got them so close to a championship. Outfielder Brian Ellis worked with weights and hit the field to work on fundamentals, while pitchers Bailey Wendel and Josh Allen worked on their mechanics and get stronger in order to replace the ones before them.

Once the preseason rolled around, things seemed to be looking in the right direction, winning two games with a 10-2 score, but once the regular season began, it was a different story. While the team won twice, at home against Trinity Prep and on the road against Olympia, where first baseman Brit Crawford hit the team’s first home run of the season, they were also defeated by Seminole, 11-4, and Bishop Moore, 6-4.

“It is not that great of a start. We have two losses already,” Wendel said. “I think we… just [need to] keep rolling and don’t worry about losses too much.”

Things started to pick up, however, and as of March 13, the team is riding a four-game winning streak, including the win at Olympia, a road victory at Lyman, and two home victories against Westminster, where pitchers Angelo Garcia, Wendel and Riley Greene combined for a no-hitter, and University.

With the regular season now a few weeks in, the team remains optimistic that they will repeat the successes of last year, and then some.

“I think we have a better team than last year,” Wendel said. “We just need to stick to what coach [Cleveland] is telling us and stop worrying that he’s a new coach and we’ll be just fine. We don’t have Joe [Sheridan] or Travis [Hosterman], but our pitching staff is just fine… and we have a better lineup. I think we can get that far and win.”

The team will take the field on Tuesday, March 14 to face DeLand and on Thursday, March 16 to take on rival Oviedo.

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