Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School baseball coach Tony Muina knew his sophomore-laden team would develop into a good team.
Just not quite this soon.
The Gators are 14-4 after last week’s victories over Sneads, Vernon and Franklin County and are pursuing an undefeated district record with just two district games remaining.
The Gators are 10-0 in District 2-1A with contests against Cottondale and Blountstown on tap this week.
Wewahitchka has already clinched the top seed in the district tournament which begins April 25 in Blountstown.
Not bad for a team that has five sophomores in the starting lineup, 11 sophomores total on the roster and just one senior.
“I knew that we had a chance to be good, but I didn’t think we’d in a position to be where we so quick,” said Muina. “We are a young team and the sophomores really had to step in and play.
“We have a pretty simple philosophy: play solid defense, pitch well and get the hits when we need them. I have told them I just want them to play well. If they do that the rest will take care of itself.”
Another characteristic of this team, Muina said, is that it is a team. He said there are no prima donnas, no superstars, just a cast that goes 14-15 deep with contributors across the board.
Consider just one game last week, a 19-8 road win at Vernon.
The lone senior, Isaac Madrid was 4 for 6 with four RBIs.
Complimenting that was Tad Gaskin, Rashard Ranie, Peter Setterich, Chipper Gainie, Jonathan Palmer and Tanner Harden who all added at least two hits, combined to hit four doubles, a triple and a home run and drove in a combined seven runs.
Ranie hit the home run, his sixth. The Gators pounded out 21 hits.
That kind of production has been the norm for a team averaging just under 10 runs a game and has outscored district opponents 114-52.
“Almost every game we find a way where 13 or 14 different guys help us with the game,” Muina said. “This is a team that plays as a team.
“We hit the ball decent. We score a lot of runs. We’re not a superstar team. Up and down the lineup anybody can contribute.”
The pitching staff is paced by Gaskin, who struggled early in the season but is 5-0 in district play, along with Charlie Laird, who is 5-0 and came into an 8-8 game and through four hitless innings against Vernon.
The goal now is to continue the improvement while pointing to the district and regional playoffs. This is, Muina said, as good a team as he’s had in the past four years.
The young Gators have put themselves in a spot to some postseason damage; they need to remember how they got there, Muina said.
“We are such a balanced team, we just try to stay consistent to who we are,” Muina said. “We’ve gotten better as the year as gone by.
“We have played well at times and we’ve played well in the district obviously. But there is a still a lot of baseball left to play.”