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Spring sports could interfere with travel ball if they resume

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Chamberlain coach Heather VanLandingham

Heather VanLandingham knew the responsibilities of taking over Chamberlain’s softball program from legendary coach Bobby Diez would be too much to pull double duty. So she stepped down as coach of her travel team to focus entirely on the Chiefs. 

Still, that did not mean VanLandingham was intent on giving up softball’s summer circuit for good. Once high school season ended, she planned to be a pitching coach for the travel team she ran for years. 

Now, there is a potential scheduling snafu. 

The Florida High School Athletic Association has postponed all games, meets and tournaments through May 3 because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the state’s organizing body for high school sports has yet to rule on cancelling spring sports altogether.

In a March 31 press release, the FHSAA said its staff “is actively working on creative solutions for the continuance of spring sports through June 30,” provided schools return to a classroom setting and sports are given the green-light by the Florida Department of Education to resume.

Athletic directors from around the stare are holding weekly meetings with FHSAA officials to discuss the potential obstacles of extending the season into the summer such as expired physicals, lack of officials and the availability of stadiums for state tournaments and meets. 

Another potential conflict that has not been explored is how much interference there will be with the travel circuit if sports are pushed back that far. Typically, the high school season for baseball and softball ends in mid-May. Teams that make it to the state semifinals and final already find themselves having to juggle schedules to accommodate those who play for travel teams. 

The big draw in the summer is showcase events. College coaches, most of whom have limited recruiting budgets, attend these supersized competitions to watch hundreds of teams  — and thousands of prospects  — in one setting. While high school contests have been postponed, the showcases, particularly in softball, plan to go on as scheduled. More than 200 travel teams have already registered for the Scenic City Showcase, held June 4-7 in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

More of a premium is placed on attending this year, especially with the financial restraints of non-revenue college sports such as baseball and softball. The budgets were squeezed even tighter when the NCAA granted an additional year of eligibility in spring sports. Fully-funded Division I-A softball programs, for example, offer 12 scholarships. Teams carry about 20-25 players. All of that was before extending eligibility. 

VanLandingham’s daughter, Serenity Jaenichen, is a junior. The two were hoping to trek across the summer attending as many showcases as possible for college exposure. 

“The chances of us going back to school at all are very slim so instead of allowing seniors to deal with this and move on you are stringing them along,” Van Landingham said.  “My daughter is a 2021 graduate and this is the most important summer for her so if by chance we get to play this summer she has to be seen. I just don’t get it. It’s allowing false hope when they are already dealing with so much right now. It’s not fair.”

If spring sports resume for high school teams, the time frame would likely allow for an acclimation period before an abbreviated regular season, followed by postseason play that could last well into June. Under that scenario, parents and players involved in travel teams could be forced to choose between high school and travel ball.   

“It absolutely would make a tough decision,” Van Landingham said. “I honestly have no idea what we would do or how that would work.”

Admiral Farragut softball Bill Hoopes, whose team won the Class 3A state title last season, said travel ball and high school can still coexist through June. 

“I think it really depends on how the (FHSAA) does it,” said Hoopes, who also is the state director for Premier Girls Fastpitch, which runs elite showcases. “If they want to play on the weekends, yes, it will interfere. If they want to play like a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, then no I don’t think it will. 

“Softball isn’t like the other sports. These girls already play year-round. It just depends on the details. Coaches who normally would not let teams have any interaction with their travel teams are going to have to bend and make compromises for sure.”

Farragut coach Bill Hoopes
Admiral Farragut coach Bill Hoopes throwing batting practice

For Hoopes, there is plenty at stake in high school softball. The Blue Jackets are trying to become the first bay area program to win three straight state titles.

National titles are on the line, too. Lakewood Ranch, which made the state semifinals two years ago and the state final last year, are currently ranked as the top team in the country according to MaxPreps. The Mustangs are coached by TJ Goelz, who runs the Tampa Mustangs 18-under travel team. 

“I just know there’s coaches like me, and TJ, and many others who were and are fighting for something so to not have that chance isn’t fun,” Hoopes said. “There’s so many seniors who want their season to end properly. So many who want that senior night.”

Jesuit’s renowned baseball team also has lofty goals it hopes to fulfill. The Tigers were ranked by several outlets as the top team in the country. They wanted to not only win their second straight state title but also finish the season undefeated, an accomplishment few baseball programs have ever achieved. 

The scheduling issues between travel and high school seasons are not as glaring in baseball this summer. American Legion Baseball has already cancelled its region and World Series events. 

And the need to be in front of college coaches and scouts could have less value, too. 

“I think it could actually be the opposite,” Jesuit baseball coach Miguel Menendez said of the urge to gain exposure in travel baseball this summer. “With the college guys potentially getting this year back, I think the recruiting process may slow down some until the fall. Schools are going to see how a shortened draft impacts them, the guys coming back, and then the class of 2020 guys.  I think it may take them some time to figure out their rosters for next year and then they will focus on recruiting.”

Jesuit baseball field

For now, the Tigers meet on Zoom weekly to talk, the conversations inevitably turning to baseball and getting back on the field. 

“They’ve stayed focused on being ready if we get another opportunity to play,” Menedez said. “It’s definitely not the most important thing right now, but the hope of a return to baseball has been good for them.”

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Baseball

Baseball: Region final recap

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Class 7A

For the full playoff bracket click here.

Scoreboard

Durant 2, Kissimmee Osceola 1

Prime time performers

P/1B Alex Canney, Sr., Durant: Threw 2 ⅔ scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out five in a win over Kissimmee Osceola. 

P Sean Hermann, Sr., Durant: Pitched 4 ⅓ innings in relief, allowing four hits and one unearned run while striking out six in a win over Kissimmee Osceola. 

C/UTIL Dylan LaPointe, So., Durant: Hit a solo homer in the fourth inning that proved to be the difference in a win over Kissimmee Osceola.

Friday’s state semifinal schedule

Durant vs. Spruce Creek, 10

Class 6A

For the full playoff bracket click here.

Scoreboard

Bloomingdale 4, Naples Gulf Coast 3

Prime time performers

INF/P Gabe Garrett, Sr., Bloomingdale: Ended up 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored ain a win over Naples Gulf Coast.

OF Drake Harman, Jr., Bloomingdale: Went 2-for-4 with an RBI in a win over Naples Gulf Coast.

INF Colby Shelton, Jr., Bloomingdale: Finished 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a win over Naples Gulf Coast.

Friday’s state semifinal schedule

Bloomingdale vs. Palm Beach Dwyer, 7

Class 2A

For the full playoff bracket click here.

Scoreboard

Sarasota Out-of-Door 4, Bishop McLaughlin 1

Mount Dora Christian 5, Seffner Christian 4 (eight innings)

Prime time performers

1B/P Dylan Cheeley, Sr., Seffner Christian: Went 2-for-3 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored in a loss to Mount Dora Christian.

OF Clay Odiorne, Sr., Seffner Christian: Hit a three-run homer in a loss to Mount Dora Christian.

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Baseball

Baseball: Region final breakdown (7-6A, 2A)

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The baseball playoffs continue Saturday with region final games in Classes 7A-6A and 2A. Admission is $7. Here is the schedule with outlooks for each area game, as well as team leaders for each matchup.

Class 7A

Kissimmee Osceola (20-7) at Durant (21-5), 7

Cougars ace Sean Hermann threw 53 pitches in Wednesday’s region semifinal win over Sarasota Riverview. That means he needed just two days rest under the Florida High School Athletic Association’s pitch count policy and is available for the final. Durant, which has won eight of its last nine games, does have some momentum. The Kowboys are on a similar  late-season streak, winning 10 of their last 11. 

Team leaders

CategoryKissimmee OsceolaDurant
Batting averageBryan Avila .393Dylan LaPointe .397
RBIsJosean Sanchez 21Dylan Lapointe 22
Home runsJosean Sanchez 2Luke Scolaro 2
ERAManuel Lopez 1.14Sean Hermann 0.42
StrikeoutsManuel Lopez 72Sean Hermann 120

Class 6A

Bloomingdale (21-6) at Naples Gulf Coast (16-11), 7

The Bulls are in the region final for the first time since 2014. Bloomingdale got to this point by winning close games. Two of the Bulls’ last three wins were decided by a run. The Sharks are making their first region final appearance since 2017. They have won five straight thanks to stellar pitching and defense that has posted two straight shutouts and has allowed just four runs during that stretch. 

Team leaders

CategoryBloomingdaleNaples Gulf Coast
Batting averageDrake Harman .400Jean Cuello .328
RBIsMarlon Bowen 22Lorenzo Soto 13
Home runsColby Shelton 5Three players tied with one.
ERAJack Owens 0.92Matthew Geller 0.52
StrikeoutsDavid Eckaus 82Matthew Geller 68

Class 2A

Seffner Christian (19-4) at Mount Dora Christian (21-6), 7

The Crusaders are making their first region final appearance. They have won five straight, including the past four by seven or more runs. The Bulldogs are in the region final for just the second time. They have won 13 straight and keep getting better. In the last four games, Mount Dora Christian has outscored opponents by a combined 49-3. 

Team leaders

CategorySeffner ChristianMount Dora Christian
Batting averageDylan Cheeley .405Ty Quan Wiggins .486
RBIsAndrew Ura 22Collin Priest, Ty Quan Wiggins 31
Home runsSpencer Boynton, Andrew Ura 2Collin Priest 9
ERABen Cheek 0.25Cooper Chapman 1.54
StrikeoutsJoey Jensen 80Mekai Griffin 54

Bishop McLaughlin (20-7) at Sarasota Out-of-Door (21-3), 7

The Hurricanes are in the region final for the first time since 2017 and are one game away from reaching the state semifinals for just the third time in school history. Bishop McLaughlin’s success is due in large part to finding ways to pull through in close games. Of the Hurricanes’ nine straight wins, six were decided by two runs or less, including two that went into extra innings. 

Team leaders

CategoryBishop McLaughlinSarasota Out-of-Door
Batting averageAugie Mojica .409Logan Tribble .487
RBIsAndrew Duncan 18Carter Dierdorf 30
Home runsThree players tied with one.Tanner Fairchild 5
ERAEthan Burkhardt 1.20Carter Dierdorf
StrikeoutsTanner Boccabello 55Josh Cone 60

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Baseball

Baseball: Region semifinal recap (7A-5A, 2A)

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Class 7A

For the full playoff bracket click here

Scoreboard

Durant 7, Sarasota Riverview 0

Prime time performers

P Sean Hermann, Sr., Durant: Threw 4 ⅔ scoreless innings, allowing four hits, finishing with six strikeouts and teaming with Alex Canney on a shutout win over Sarasota Riverview. 

C/UTIL Dylan LaPointe, So., Durant: Hit two doubles and had two RBIs and a run scored in a win over Sarasota Riverview. 

C/3B Carlos Morales, Fr., Durant: Went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in a win over Sarasota Riverview. 

Saturday’s region final schedule

Durant vs. Osceola-Lake Nona winner

Class 6A

For the full playoff bracket click here.

Scoreboard

Bloomingdale 2, Mitchell 1

Prime time performers

INF/P Gabe Garrett, Sr., Bloomingdale: Went 2-for-3 with a run scored in a win over Mitchell. 

P/OF Jack Owens, Jr., Bloomingdale: Lasted six innings on the mound, allowing three hits and one earned run while striking out seven in a win over Mitchell. 

Saturday’s region final schedule

Bloomingdale at Naples Gulf Coast, 7

Class 5A

For the full playoff bracket click here.

Scoreboard

Land O’ Lakes 3, Ocala Vanguard 0

Prime time performer

P Brian Holiday, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Threw a complete-game no-hitter with 20 strikeouts and was 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and a run scored in a win over Ocala Vanguard. It was career win No. 600 for Gators coach Calvin Baisley.

May 19 region final schedule

Land O’ Lakes at Jefferson, 7

Class 2A

For the full playoff bracket click here

Scoreboard

Seffner Christian 11, Winter Haven All Saints’ Academy 2

Bishop McLaughlin 4, Northside Christian 3 (10 innings)

Prime time performers

OF/P Andrew Duncan, So., Bishop McLaughlin: Powered the Hurricanes’ offense by going 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in a win over Northside Christian.

C Andrew Ura, Sr., Seffner Christian: Hit a grand slam that ignited the offense in a win over Winter Haven All Saints’ Academy. 

Saturday’s region final schedule  

Seffner Christian at Mount Dora Christian, 7

Bishop McLaughlin at Sarasota Out-of-Door, 7

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