By Matt Wiley
Bust out the peanuts and Cracker Jack, as high school baseball now is in full swing at both Wesley Chapel High (WCH) and Wiregrass Ranch High (WRH).
Coming off of a 19-7 season last year, head coach Jeff Swymer’s Wiregrass Ranch Bulls are off to a solid start, second in Class 7A-District 9 (to Steinbrenner High in Tampa) as of our press time.
“We’re 7-1 right now, so you could say the season is going pretty good,” Swymer says. “As long as we continue to hit like we are right now, we’ll be in good shape. We have 7 of our 9 starters hitting .400 or above.”
Swymer says that the Bulls are hoping to have a 20-win season, but have a tough road ahead of them, facing a strong district of mostly Hillsborough teams, including Steinbrenner (8-0 at our press time) and Gaither (3-5).
“We don’t really get a night off this season,” Swymer says.
The Bulls’ success on the diamond early in the season is thanks in part to the Drury brothers, Zach and Austin. Zach opened the 2013 season by pitching a no-hitter against Sunlake High, striking out 16 in the Bulls’ 4-0 victory. Zach, a right-handed junior, is off to an All-Star start, with a 3-1 record, 43 strikeouts and a microscopic 0.33 ERA in 21 innings.
Swymer says that another key to the Bulls strong start is junior infielder/pitcher Michael Campoamor, who is batting .565 and already has nine runs and 10 RBIs (runs batted in), compared to his sophomore season’s 27 runs and 17 RBIs.
Sophomore catcher Alex Goebel also has been a big contributor so far, with a .360 batting average, 9 hits, 6 runs and 7 RBIs.
‘Cats Off To Winning Start
At nearby WCH, head coach Chuck Yingling’s District 5A-8 WCH Wildcats are looking to improve on last year’s 14-11 record. Already 8-2, Yingling is optimistic about this year’s team.
“We’re doing really well,” he explains. “We’ve had two tough losses (to Tampa Catholic and Ridgewood), but we’re performing well. We’re improving every day.”
Standouts for WCH so far this season include senior pitcher Chase Ingram, who already has 36 strikeouts under his belt, as well as two wins and a sparkling 1.67 ERA in 21 innings so far.
At the plate, third-baseman Kyle Custer, also a senior, leads the Wildcats in hitting with a .611 batting average, 11 hits, 7 runs scored and 7 RBIs.
Yingling says he also has his eye on senior center fielder Justin Ortiz.
“His batting is starting to wake up,” Yingling says. “He’s just a good, all-around athlete.” To go along with his .308, Ortiz has 8 hits, has scored 8 runs and has 4 RBIs. He also leads the Wildcats in stolen bases this season with six.
“We’ve got a well-rounded team,” Yingling says. “We’re much better than last year. We’re actually capable of substitutions this season, too, because we have more depth and we can rest our players. That’s important.”
WCH and WRH won’t square off until Tuesday, April 16, but it promises to be a tight game. Last year’s matchup went to the Bulls 1-0, but Yingling hopes this season will go a little differently.
“They’re a good club with a lot of talent,” says the WCH coach of his team’s “cross-Wesley Chapel” rivals. “It’s a nice rivalry. Hopefully this year, we will be more productive.”