CLEARWATER — There have been days when Clearwater Central Catholic’s Todd Vaughan thought about leaving.
After a particularly bad day of practice or disappointing season he has entertained the idea of handing over head coaching duties to somebody else.
Those thoughts never last. Vaughan has been around the CCC program since he was a player in the mid 1970s. He was a shortstop on the 1979 state championship team. He has coached two state title winners, in 2002 and ’07.
Vaughan has outlived the original baseball field, and the red pants and yellow socks of the 1970s and ’80s uniforms.
For the past 25 years he has been the face of Marauders baseball. Eight years before that he was an assistant under Bill Gasper.
“After ’07 we had a good team coming back in ’08 and we don’t get out of regionals,” Vaughan said. “Those guys all graduate and then in ’09 we don’t get out of districts. I’m thinking, maybe I should have walked out in ’07. You start thinking, ‘Are we ever going to see that talent again?’ ”
And that answer is yes.
The Marauders won district championships in 2010 and ’11. After a hiccup last season, CCC is back in familiar territory — the state semifinals.
This is the school’s 10th appearance, seventh under Vaughan. At 26-4, this is one of the best teams Vaughan has taken to states.
The Marauders are hitting .354 as a team. Derek Gibree (.430), Johnny Karaphillis (.412) and David Paul (.403) are hitting over .400 with six others over .300. Brenden Overton leads the county with six home runs.
They have a team ERA of 1.89. Three pitchers, Paul (11-0), Michael Del Monte (7-0) and Tyler Simmons (4-0) are undefeated. At one point in the season, CCC had won 16 straight games.
It’s a big difference from last year’s 11-15 team.
“We were all pretty young last year,” senior shortstop Benito Mendizabal said. “With the talent we had we just needed a learning year to go through things. It was important for us. It prepared us for this year.”
Vaughan said teams like this year’s keep him coming back.
“We’ve got to be one, that’s a constant,” he said. “Some teams are friends outside the lines, some teams are friends only across the line. But we have to do it together.
“And each team is different. If we’re a power team, fine. But if we’re not, then we don’t need to still try to be a power team. That’s what’s made this year fun. We’re not a power team. We have to manufacture runs.”
Playing for state championships has become the norm. But when Vaughan started the Marauders hadn’t been to the state tournament since 1982. When he took over in 1989, the team went 8-14 in back-to-back years.
“They were rough,” Vaughan said. “They were young, had a good sophomore class. We weren’t known much for baseball. But those sophomores we had ended up going to states as seniors.”
Fast forward and Vaughan has won 472 games in his 25 years.
“The way he coaches was the same in ’02 as it is now,” said John Petika Jr., a sophomore that year who is now an assistant coach. “He hasn’t changed at all. The guys who leave this program are very loyal to him. You’ll see how in some of the games, alumni come back. I’m not sure that happens at many other programs in Pinellas County.”
Vaughan isn’t sure how much longer he’ll coach. But at 51, he could last many more seasons. When he first started, he had no idea he would be around 25 years.
“I think about that sometimes,” Vaughan said. “I don’t know what I thought. I think it was just more like the next season rolls around and I haven’t said I’m not coming back.
“We’ll see. When I read about Gaither’s coach (Frank Permuy) leaving and he was 70, I thought, ‘Wow, don’t know if I could do that.’ But when I have parents meetings I look at the parents and they still look like parents to me. But I can’t see me, so I think I’m still 26.”
Where: JetBlue Park, Fort Myers
Admission: $9, parking is $8
8A semifinals: Durant vs. Hialeah American, 10 a.m.; Altamonte Springs Lake Brantley vs. Jupiter, 1 p.m. Friday
3A semifinals: Jacksonville Providence vs. Clearwater Central Catholic, 10 a.m.; Melbourne Central Catholic vs. Miami Florida Christian, 1 p.m. Monday
About Jacksonville Providence School
Road to the final four: Defeated North Florida Christian 7-6, d. Jacksonville Eagle’s View 3-0, d. Daytona Beach Father Lopez 7-5
Key players: RHP Brooks Lockett (7-0, 1.17 ERA, 60 innings, 47 Ks); C Matthew Harrington (.385, 11 RBIs); OF Matt Fitzsimmons (.330, 18 RBIs); OF Tim Gattoni (.351, 15 runs scored)
Noteworthy: Providence, a district runnerup, had to win all three region games on the road. It lost three of five before regionals. Providence is the defending Class 3A state champion, also winning in 2008.