For 20 games this season, Wesley Chapel appeared invincible. It took just two for the Wildcats to come crashing back to reality. With two weeks to go in the regular season, Wesley Chapel entertained the possibility of going undefeated. The Wildcats won a school record 20 straight games. They won all four of their games at the Pasco County Varsity Baseball Tournament during spring break to win the first-year tournament. Nobody, it seemed, could solve the Wildcats.
"At the beginning of the year, we weren't really expecting (to go undefeated)," shortstop Geoff DeGroot said. "As we started going and we got to 15-0, 16-0 and won that spring break tournament, we thought we had a real good shot at it."
With four games remaining, however, the Wildcats were tripped up by Wiregrass Ranch 6-1. Five days later, the Wildcats were beaten 13-4 by Land O'Lakes.
"We kind of figured that we'd lose one eventually," DeGroot said. "That would have been great to be the first team in school history to go undefeated. We didn't want to lose any, but we were being realistic."
With district tournament starting this week, the Wildcats are slumping at the wrong time.
"It was like we were trying way too hard for Wiregrass Ranch and Land O'Lakes," coach Chuck Yingling said. "In both games, we were just a little excitable and did a few things we haven't done all year. We left a lot of runners on base, 12 in the first game and about 15 in the second."
Yingling, though, doesn't think Wesley Chapel's late-season slump will carry over into the postseason. In fact, the Wildcats have already rebounded, beating Fivay 10-0 in six innings after that first loss and hammering Sunlake 14-4 a day after the Land O'Lakes game.
Plus, Yingling half-expected the Wildcats to lose a few games before the district tournament. When the veteran coach examined the schedule, he noticed the number of tougher opponents toward the end and said he hoped his team could start out strong and continue to build.
It was almost a special season. And it still can be. The Wildcats are the top seed for the 4A-7 tournament, which begins Monday, and they are one of a handful of North Suncoast teams with an eye toward Port St. Lucie, home of the state finals.
"We're excited about the season we had. But I'm not a coach who worries about the regular season. I'm more worried about how we're playing going into districts," Yingling said. "I'm not too sure about the history of the county, but in the last 10 years, we've had a better season than any team. That was the end of the first season, though. Now we're starting our second season."
And despite its recent losses, the Wildcats are just as confident now as they were two weeks ago.
"We feel like we have a fairly short memory," DeGroot said. "Nobody's hanging their heads. We're very satisfied with the regular season we had."
Admission: $5 per session
At stake: Top two teams advance to region quarterfinals.
5A-7 at Springstead
Tuesday: Central (4) vs. Ocala Forest (1), 4:30 p.m.; West Port (3) vs. Springstead (2), 7 p.m. Thursday: final, 7
4A-8 at Sunlake
Monday: Nature Coast (7) vs. Land O'Lakes (2), 4 p.m.; Hernando (1) vs. Sunlake (9), 7. Tuesday: Lecanto (5) vs. Citrus (4), 4; River Ridge (6) vs. Wiregrass Ranch (3), 7. Wednesday: Nature Coast/Land O'Lakes winner vs. River Ridge/Wiregrass Ranch winner, 4; Hernando/Sunlake winner vs. Lecanto/Citrus winner, 7. Friday: final, 7
4A-7 at Wesley Chapel
Monday: Hudson (7) vs. Mitchell (2), 4:30 p.m.; Gulf (8) vs. Wesley Chapel (1), 7. Tuesday: Anclote (6) vs. Fivay (3), 4:30; Ridgewood (5) vs. Pasco (4), 7. Wednesday: Hudson/Mitchell winner vs. Anclote/Fivay winner, 4:30; Gulf/Wesley Chapel winner vs. Ridgewood/Pasco winner, 7. Friday: final, 7
2A-10 at Tampa Prep
Monday: Tampa Prep (4) vs. Calvary Christian (5), 7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Indian Rocks Christian (2) vs. Brooks-DeBartolo (3), 4; Bishop McLaughlin (1) vs. Tampa Prep/Calvary winner, 7. Thursday: final, 7
A-9 at Canterbury
Monday: Keswick Christian (5) vs. Lakeside Christian (4), 3 p.m.; Academy at the Lakes (6) vs. Carrollwood Day School (3), 5; Tampa Bay Christian (7) vs. Canterbury (2), 7. Tuesday: AATL/Carrollwood winner vs. Tampa Bay Chr./Canterbury winner, 5; Keswick/Lakeside winner vs. Cambridge (1), 7. Thursday: final, 6
A-8 at Seffner Christian
Tuesday: Bradenton Christian (2) vs. Hernando Christian (3), 1 p.m. Seffner Christian (1) vs. Bayshore Christian (4), 4; Thursday: final, 4:30