Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)


Cotey: Mustangs sneak up on county foes

TRINITY — It was sunny, with a slight breeze. Quiet. Peaceful almost.

On the field, Mitchell played a meaningless baseball game against a team from far away. A few fans dug into coolers for drinks, others lounged near the concession stand.

The game against Gonzalez Tate counted, technically, but the lazy day made it seem like not much more than an exhibition.

If the Mustangs have their way, Tuesday evening was merely the calm before they storm to the Sunshine Athletic Conference title.

"Now it gets fun,'' first-year coach Scott Wilcox said.

And fun for the Mustangs has not been so fun for opponents. Since returning to a steady diet of Pasco County teams after spending a quiet, almost silent first month getting beat up in district play, the Mustangs have surged to the SAC lead.

Before Tuesday, they had won six straight, four by shutout. And they did that against the best and hottest teams the area has to offer.

Last week, the Mustangs shut out Pasco, winners of 13 of 14 games. Two days later, they snapped Land O'Lakes' 14-game win streak with another shutout. Two days later, they blanked a Nature Coast team that was 15-3.

"Those were the three teams that were getting all the attention,'' Wilcox said, "and we shut them all out.''

One more note: in the 58 combined games the three teams had played, they had never been shut out.

For a team that was expected to have one of the county's best staffs with Patrick Schuster, Ryan Garton and Matt Hewitt, that may not be much of a surprise. For a team that has struggled mightily at the plate the past two seasons, it was awfully refreshing.

After mustering only 19 runs through a hugely disappointing 4-9 start, Mitchell put up 56 runs during its recent six-game win streak.

"Everyone underestimated us,'' said pitcher Garton. "But they don't understand the district we played in. It's crazy.''

Because they play in a district with two Pinellas County teams and three from Hillsborough, it is easy to disappear.

And because those teams are the likes of St. Petersburg, Gaither, Sickles and Alonso — all with pitching galore — it is easy to lose.

"We've been …weathered,'' Wilcox said.

Now they are ready.

The Mustangs are ready for an SAC schedule they should get through unscathed, with one tough game remaining in the bunch, against Zephyrhills on Monday.

At 11-10, they are the most unlikely of conference contenders.

"The kids are getting fired up for this,'' Wilcox said. "We're sort of out of touch with Pasco County and have been kind of under the rug for the first half of the season. They have a lot they want to prove.''

Ace junior lefty Schuster, who is being courted by the likes of Florida and Clemson, says the Mustangs endured their fair share of razzing for their slow start from former Little League teammates who are now scattered at other schools in the county.

Instead, he says, they should feel fortunate Mitchell, still a young team, is tucked away in Class 6A.

"I heard a rumor we might be going down to 5A next year,'' he said. "If we do, it's over.''

Which is what they hope to prove down the stretch.

The Mustangs still haven't shown an ability to consistently hit good pitching. They have scored two or fewer runs in half their games. They can be sloppy in the field.

So while a brutal district prepared them for a run at the conference title, that run at the title now has to prepare them for the district tournament.

"We've been playing well but we still have to prove we can maintain it,'' Wilcox said. "We just want to finish strong. Pitching is our strength, but we need to go into the tournament with confident bats.''

Now it gets fun.

John C. Cotey can be reached at or

(813) 909-4612.

Cotey: Mustangs sneak up on county foes 04/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays journal: Rays gamble on Sergio Romo's track record, heart

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Some of RHP Sergio Romo's numbers this season with the Dodgers were the worst of his career, yet the Rays feel he can be a good fit for their bullpen.

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26:  Sergio Romo #54 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the 9th inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on June 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
  5. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.