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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2018 2 years ago

Off to strong start, Legacy baseball has spring in its step | Observer Preps

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At 9-4 already this season, the Legacy Charter Eagles are flirting with a breakout campaign in the program’s third year of existence.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

The Legacy Charter baseball team won a respectable seven games during its inaugural season in 2016.

In 2017, the Eagles won nine games.

Gehrig Chambless is Legacy's top hitter this spring.

This spring, though, Jack Chambless’ ballclub is halfway through the 2018 season and already it has nine wins — Legacy has raced out to an 9-4 start with a 5-2 record in its district entering spring break.

The Eagles are beginning to make a little bit of noise this spring and their third-year coach says all credit is due to the boys suiting up each game.

“It’s crazy this year — because of injuries and illness, we’ve got the thinnest roster we’ve had in three years,” Chambless said. “But, the nine guys that get penciled into play every night are baseball players. That’s the big change. I don’t think we’re coaching any better — but I do know that we’ve got nine baseball players that get up and fight every at-bat.”

Legacy split a pair of district games with nearby rival Foundation Academy two weeks ago, with the loss representing just the second of the season for the Eagles. The other losses came to Windermere High, a Class 8A foe, The Master's Academy and South Dakota's Roosevelt High — a team that went 33-0 last year and was nationally-ranked by MaxPreps.

The success the team is experiencing has several facets, but one that is hard to ignore is the discipline Legacy’s batters have had at the plate. After racking up more than 160 strikeouts in 2016 and 140 in 2017, the Eagles are on pace for fewer than a hundred strikeouts this spring.

“They swing the bat, they bring the gloves, they believe in themselves no matter what the score is,” Chambless said. “They just keep fighting like they know they’re going to win.”

"I don’t think we’re coaching any better — but I do know that we’ve got nine baseball players that get up and fight every at-bat."

Jack Chambless, head coach

At the plate, senior Gehrig Chambless has led the Eagles with an eye-popping .629 batting average — a top-100 average in the nation, per MaxPreps. Gehrig Chambless has also been a nuisance for opposing teams on the base paths, stealing a team-best 14 bases.

Fellow senior Dalton Cantrell and sophomore Justin LaGasse join Gehrig Chambless in leading the team in RBIs with 10 apiece, and LaGasse and Gehrig Chambless have the team’s only home runs this spring.

Gabriel Chambless, Gehrig’s younger brother, has nine RBIs for the Eagles, as well as six extra-base hits.

Sophomore Andrew Birko has been Legacy’s go-to workhorse on the mound so far this spring, with four of the team’s eight wins to his credit and a 0.75 ERA to show for it. 

“(Birko) doesn’t throw hard, but he’s just tough as heck and he’s been going out there giving us quality innings,” Chambless said of the sophomore pitcher.

Though less quantifiable by statistics, camaraderie has also been an area of improvement for the team this spring, with Chambless noting that his team has an affinity for singing before games and between innings and that the players often dine out together after games.

Legacy has home-and-home series remaining against Maitland’s Orangewood Christian (6-3, 3-0 district) and Lake Mary Prep (8-6, 2-1 district).

The Eagles hot start within Class 3A, District 3 certainly has its players and fans hopeful that Legacy can compete for a district title and playoff berth this spring, but the young program’s coach knows there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We’ve got a huge road ahead of us — every week our district opponent is going to be tougher than the week before,” Chambless said. “We’re about to enter a very difficult stretch and it’s going to challenge the boys.

“I think they’re up to it,” Chambless added. “We’re going to find out if they’re able to compete at a level that would give them a chance to play for the district championship.”

Steven Ryzewski is the Senior Sports Editor for ObserverPreps.com, as well as all three of Observer Media Group's print publications in Orange County. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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