With a new season comes a fresh start for local teams in the Winter Park area.
The warm weather and layers of pollen have kicked up, and that only means one thing — it's baseball season. As the new season unfolds, here are five questions we’re looking at that involve our local teams.
1. Can Winter Park overcome its massive staff turnover?
It’s still too early in the season to tell, but so far, the answer is a cautiously optimistic “yes.”
Through four games this season, the Wildcats are 3-1, with the lone loss coming in a 3-1 defeat to Cypress Creek. They have outscored opponents 20-5 thus far.
The start is a pleasant surprise for a team that did not make a playoff appearance last year. In 2017, the Wildcats had a respectable season as they went 17-11 and finished third in the district with a record of 6-4 thanks to an experienced group.
But this season, the Wildcats are in a much different situation. They lost a total of 11 players — 10 graduated while one decided not to play. Of those 11, seven were frequent starters.
While many would see the situation as critical, Head Coach Dee Brown is looking at it from a positive stance.
“It’s good and bad — obviously bad because of the unknown, but it’s good because you get fresh kids (who) know that they have an opportunity to play where they can,” Brown said. “In most of our positions you don’t have a senior that has been there for three years and it’s tough to remove that guy. Hopefully, it turns around the other way where our guys our hungry and compete everyday at practice — that’s what we are hoping that it pushes.”
2. What will it take to get Bishop Moore back to the state championship game?
One word — offense.
Over the last few seasons, the Hornets have put in work to become a team of reckoning in Class 4A ball, and the offense has was a huge part of it for last year’s team.
Since 2012, the Hornets have won at least 20 games five times — with the only exception being in 2014 — and have seen their progression through the playoffs get better.
In 2015, the Hornets made it to the regional finals, then to the state semis in 2016 before reaching the state finals in 2017, where they lost 7-2 to Bolles.
If the Hornets want to make it back to the state title for a second-consecutive year, they wll have to tap into that same explosive offense which allowed them to outscore opponents 215 to 136 — an average of 6.5 to 4.1.
So far, things seem to be going smoothly for the Hornets, who currently sit at 4-1 through five games.
The Hornets have doubled up opponents through their first five games — outscoring the other side 40-20. In their matchup with Trinity Prep, the Hornets went off for 19 runs while only allowing four.
3. Who steps up and helps Orangewood take back-to-back district crowns?
If you ask Head Coach Scott Hilinski, he will tell you that there are too many kids to name, but there are a few that stick out.
The first is junior first-baseman and DH Troy McPeak, who last year only played in four games.
But McPeak’s role on the team goes far beyond playing first; he also acts as an inspiration for the team as a whole.
“He is kind of the glue that keeps us together,” Hilinski said. “He had a loss in his family a couple of weeks ago that hit home not only for him but for the whole team. To watch him go through that adversity and have the baseball team be an extension of his family through that tough time has been inspiring.”
With McPeak as the inspirational glue that keeps the team together on a familial level, junior Josh Morse provides the hammer on offense.
So far through the first four games of the season, the Rams are 2-1-1 thanks in large part to the hot hitting of Morse, who has picked up three RBI on 6-for-12 hitting — which sees him sitting with a batting average of .500.
Morse also has been an asset on defense. He has racked up a .923 fielding percentage while notching seven putouts and five assists to one error.
4. Will Edgewater make it above .500?
It’s been a tough couple of seasons for the Eagles of Edgewater, and so far, it’s been the same old, same old.
The Eagles haven’t ended a season over the .500 mark since 2015, when they finished 17-8. In 2016, they finished at 15-15 overall.
Through their first five games, the Eagles have struggled to a 1-4 record and have been outscored 36-11.
If the Eagles want to make a push to make it to at least .500, then the pitching will have to find some improvements. Edgewater’s opponents are averaging nine runs per game.
But it’s not all bad news for the Eagles.
In their game against Wekiva in the Ocoee Invitational, the Eagles put up a 3-0 shutout of the Mustangs — showing that when things click, they can make a splash.
5. Will it be back-to-back playoffs for Trinity Prep?
Every team enters the season with the goals of making the state playoffs. But making it can be difficult.
It’s been six years since the last time the Saints have had back-to-back playoffs appearances — which occurred in 2011 and 2012.
Those teams amassed a 39-16 record, but that’s in the past, and this is the present.
Last season, the Saints managed a 13-13 overall record, but a 6-4 standing in the district placed the Saints in second — good enough for a playoff appearance. That year, much like this season’s 0-3-1 start, was difficult, but the Saints managed to pull it together.
It’s still early, so there is plenty of time, but the Saints will need to rely on another outburst of offense like they did last year to put together a strong middle and end to this season.