County baseball is back in the swing of things

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The baseball season is underway for the eight public county high school teams. Here is a brief look at what to expect this season.

OSCEOLA

The Kowboys are coming off a successful season that ended in a little controversy. Osceola defeated Winter Park, 1-0, in regional quarterfinal play, but was ruled ineligible for further playoff action when the Kowboys self-reported that pitcher Hamilton Martinez did not dress for the required 10 regular season games needed to participate in the playoffs. Osceola lost a lot of senior leadership off of that 17-6 team and Coach Scott Birchler will field a young team in 2020, which features one senior starter. Top pitchers include sophomore Vincent Valente, who is off to a 2-0 start and a 0.00 ERA in three appearances this season. Sophomore Danny Ramirez and junior Manuel Lopez will also play a key part in the Kowboys rotation. The Osceola infield features shortstop Jose Perez (Jr.), second baseman Sebastain Burgos (Jr.), third baseman Josean Sanchez (Jr.), and first baseman Blake Birchler (So.). Junior Luis Cedeno, freshman Isaiah Baptiste, and sophomore Matt Matteo make up the Kowboys’ outfield. Osceola is off to a 3-2 start this season.

ST. CLOUD

Bo O’Dell's team features a major rebuilding job in 2020 after he lost his top four hitters in Nick Matos (.323), Chase Goerner (.391), Geo Berio (.412) and Josiah Rivera (.378), as well as his top two pitchers in Matos and Jacob Bourekas to graduation. The Bulldogs do return some experience in Clayton Boroski (P, 3B, SS) and CJ Callahan (C, 1B). St. Cloud opened the season with a 1-2 record.

GATEWAY

When Tohopekaliga High School opened in 2018, it siphoned off quite a few students from Gateway-including many student athletes. That was one of many factors in leaving the Panthers traditionally one of the better baseball programs in the county unable to field a team. Jim Moran’s team is back this season and off to a 3-1 start. Top Panther players include Ezekial Baez, Ariel Acosta, Andres Aybar, Cassius Daniel and Charlie Soto.

CELEBRATION

Ed Kuzma takes over as head coach of the Storm, after Celebration went 10-11 last season, but still managed to qualify for the regional baseball tournament. It will be a definite year of transition for the Storm, however, as no starters return to the lineup. Kuzma will rely on Bo Reel, Nicholas Wessling and Hunter Hawk to form the basis of a young pitching staff handled by junior catcher Juan Avila. The Storm got off to a 2-2 start this year, with victories over Wekiva and Liberty.

HARMONY

First-year Head Coach Heath Williams’ team is off to a 0-4 start, but the Longhorns have been in every game they have played, including coming up short in a pair of onerun decisions. Williams is the fifth head coach in the last five years and looks to bring some stability back to the Longhorns program. Seniors Wyatt Whalen and Jordan Magorrian, as well as sophomore Matt Rumardo will anchor the Harmony pitching staff; while shortstop Pablo Torres (.500) and first baseman Jordan Navarro (.333) are off to hot starts with the bats for Harmony.

TOHOPEKALIGA

In the school’s first year of competition in baseball, the Tigers went 4-15, but did finish the season on a twogame winning streak and head coach Nikko Martell says the best is yet to come.

“Rolling into our second year as a program, we have developed the type of culture we set out to create from Day One where our program consists of positive, academically-inclined players who display tireless work ethic:’ Martell said.

For a second year program, Martell says the goal is “to get to the .500 mark and try to get into the district playoffs:’

Martell’s 19-man roster features 15 underclassmen, 10 sophomores and a freshman. Top returning players include position players Javarius Magee and Luis Cintron and pitcher Colin Harmon.

LIBERTY

Jonathan Padilla’s team is off to a 2-4 start in 2020. Padilla will rely on senior leadership from Jordy Pena, Austin Garcia and Mark Linder.

POINCIANA

The Eagles return five rising seniors off of last year’s team including Yan Carlos Maldonaldo, William Saldana, Scooter Acosta, Adrian Almonte and Anyer Lillo. Poinciana began the season 1-3, including a win over Celebration.