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Baseball: It's time to ponder what lies ahead for 2010

PUNTA GORDA — They didn't hit nearly well enough, didn't field nearly well enough, didn't pitch nearly well enough.

Therefore, the end came in a cavalcade of Charlotte hits and Osceola walks, errors and balks Friday night for the Warrior baseball team.

But it felt, strangely, like the beginning.

The beginning of something big.

"Sure, I would have loved to win and be going to play Plant next week," coach Kevin Mullins said, "but … "

But?

But the Warriors return nearly everyone from a team that had 21 wins and until a late-season hiccup looked like the best in Pinellas County.

And there are rumblings a few key pieces might arrive via other programs in the county.

Imagine that: athletes transferring to Osceola.

"I don't know anything about that," star sophomore Taylor Layner said, "but I know that right now, we got the best team right here."

He might be right, even if the Falcons up Dunedin way are raising their hands and saying, "Uhhhh, don't think so."

Because everyone else seemed to start looking ahead before the last K could be scribbled in Friday's official scorebook, and the theme of the 2009 season was youth, let's look ahead.

Your top five baseball teams heading into next season:

1. Dunedin: Not to rain on Osceola's parade, but the Falcons will be scary the next few years. They return everyone from a team that won the conference and district for the fourth straight season and won 10 straight until a playoff loss to Jesuit on Tuesday.

They have a lefty ace in Alex Norris and plenty of right-handed complements, and Casey Turgeon might be the best returning player in the county.

Oh, and the second wave of players from that Dunedin Little League team that made such a big splash in 2006 are expected to show up next year.

I told Tom Hilbert after the loss to Jesuit that if I could buy stock in a high school baseball team, I'd load up on shares of the Falcons.

2. Osceola: If the rumors are true — and I would bet my autographed Casey Kotchman rookie card on it — Osceola is going to pick up a strong right-handed complement to Layner, giving the Warriors a great 1-2 pitching punch and a slick fielding shortstop who can hit and pitch a little as well.

Even without any additions, Layner is right — this is going to be a good team.

3. Clearwater Central Catholic: Injuries forced coach Todd Vaughan to play a lot of youngsters in 2009, and that will pay off next season.

While the Marauders lose pitcher Zach Olson, returner Patrick Camporini is ace material. And I'd never bet against Vaughan having two average teams in a row.

4. St. Petersburg Catholic: The Barons were up and down in 2009 (beat Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas but lose to Bishop McLaughlin?) but mostly up. That won't change in 2010. The Barons lose seven seniors, but only two saw significant playing time. Southpaw pitcher Justin Tedder has an All-County arm and bat, and Connor Obrochta is a nice bat in the middle of what will be an experienced lineup.

5. Northeast, East Lake, St. Petersburg, Countryside: Yes, this is cheating. But all of these teams have enough talent coming back to make a surprise run, and they were all over the place this past season.

Northeast will be senior-laden and after being the county's biggest disappointment in 2009 has a lot to prove. The Green Devils were the youngest of this group and showed some sparks this season. East Lake is always good for 15 wins but, lately, little more. And Countryside was the most inconsistent of this bunch but maybe the most promising.

Baseball: It's time to ponder what lies ahead for 2010 05/09/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 12:29am]
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