- May 20, 2017
When digesting what the West Orange softball team has accomplished by winning back-to-back state championships, it helps to know a little history.
Take, for instance, the significance of the Warriors’ state championship last spring.
When West Orange topped Tampa’s Alonso High in the 2016 FHSAA Class 9A State Championship, it marked the first time a public school from Central Florida had won a softball state title since Seminole County’s Lake Mary did it in 1998.
Winning a single state title was, is and always will be a significant accomplishment on its own.
So, when the Warriors held on for a thrilling 1-0 victory over Palm Harbor in the 2017 FHSAA Class 9A State Championship Game last Saturday night in Vero Beach, it added another wrinkle to a historic run.
West Orange is now the first public school in Central Florida to win back-to-back softball championships since the sport was converted from slowpitch to fastpitch by the FHSAA in the early-'90s. Also, since that transition, the Warriors are only the second program to win consecutive titles in the state’s largest classification.
The run the Warriors are enjoying over the past two seasons — and you also could include their 26-2 season in 2015 that ended in the regional final — is nothing short of remarkable.
During West Orange’s championship seasons in 2016 and 2017, the team has a 58-4 record. Since 2015, the Warriors are an astonishing 84-6.
Alumni of the program are littered across the college softball landscape, with more on the way.
For head coach Todd LaNeave, there’s just something special about the athletes coming up through the local outlets for youth softball in West Orange.
“We consistently get players coming into the program, and it helps with the longevity of success,” LaNeave said. “(We) get waves of five or six really talented players (who) come in — and there’s five or six (who) are already there.”
It really is a run to be remembered — and the timing of this success is nothing if not poetic, also, with the opening of Windermere High this fall.
LaNeave estimates the Wolverines will take five of his junior varsity players from this spring and one varsity player.
Beyond the immediate loss of those players, there is the bigger-picture reality that this softball-rich area is being split in two. Of West Orange’s standout players who have gone on to play in college these past few years, LaNeave estimates half would have been zoned for the new school.
“It will be difficult moving forward, with the new school, to put the collective talent on one team on one field,” LaNeave said. “We’re losing some pretty good players.”
And although the inevitable West Orange-Windermere rivalry will throw a new — and fun — wrinkle into this area’s rich softball tradition, no one will forget the teams West Orange has put on the field these past three seasons.
And neither will the FHSAA record books.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]