WESLEY CHAPEL — The history of Wesley Chapel High softball is, to put it kindly, a bit unsightly from a record standpoint.
"For example, my freshman year we went winless. … Yeah," said senior Dana Mumaw, pausing a couple of seconds before the last word, almost in disbelief.
But she can smile upon the reflection now. As can her father, first-year coach Steve Mumaw.
The Wildcats have reached double digits in victories for the first time. A year after going 7-17, which topped the previous mark for most victories by a pair, Wesley Chapel (11-5 as of Tuesday) is eyeing another first: the postseason.
That's saying something for a team that had never even won a district tournament game until 2016. The program began in 2007 and the first five years (unsightly alert) the Wildcats went 1-15, 2-20, 2-21, 1-22 and 2-21.
"Chapel was never one of the best teams," said sophomore Logan Coward, who was at Pasco last season. "But now we are one of the best. It's a big improvement and hypes us to get more wins."
How, one might ask, has this come to fruition? While the varsity Wildcats were struggling in 2013, a group of 12- to 13-year-olds — the Wesley Chapel All-Star Ponytails — made it to the Dixie League World Series in Louisiana. Two years before that, the same group reached the World Series in Virginia.
And now they're in high school.
"It really did come together," Steve Mumaw said. "And they've just worked hard, ever since the first day in tryouts, and that working hard has showed in the way they're playing. It's nice to see."
Mumaw had tremendous success in two seasons as Wesley Chapel's baseball coach, his teams going a combined 40-17 in 2014-15. His daughter is the lone senior on this squad, and every other starter is a freshman or a sophomore.
Catcher Neely Peterson, a 10th-grader, has verbally committed to Colorado State. And freshman pitcher Jordan Almasy, is (already) committed to Central Florida.
She's been a real key.
"We kind of knew that, 'Hey, we may be okay,' " coach Mumaw said. "Saw signs of it last year, and then this year's freshman class added to it with a pitcher involved. A top-notch pitcher. That really helped turned things around."
After Tuesday's big win over top dog Land O'Lakes, Almasy had a 8-4 record in 70.1 innings with a 2.59 ERA, while hitting .342 in the No. 5 spot.
"I definitely knew this team was going to be good. We've all known each other since we were 6," Almasy said. "I think we came out with the idea that this was going to be a transition year. And then our big turning point was we beat River Ridge."
The Royal Knights have been the best team in the county for the current decade, and coupled with Land O'Lakes make for a pretty formidable duo in Class 6A, District 7. Just last year, River Ridge beat the Wildcats 20-0, though the second meeting was 2-1.
This year, River Ridge scored in the seventh inning to win 4-3 in early March, before Chapel got the breakthrough 5-3 victory last week. Ashley Nickisher, a standout third baseman, went 3 for 4, including a three-run home run.
"It feels great to beat teams where in the past it hasn't been very close," Dana Mumaw said. "Sometimes a team will walk in thinking, 'We got this easy,' but this year, we can kind of put it to them and show 'em, it's not going to be easy this time."
Dad agrees: "That's the thing. We come to the ballpark knowing if we play our game, the other team has to play very good to beat us. Instead of hoping you don't get 10-run ruled. It's a different kind of confidence."
It helps that the Wildcats have no weaknesses in the lineup.
Jasmine Jackson is the leadoff hitter, ahead of Nickisher and Peterson, with freshman Anna Margetis usually cleaning up ahead of Almasy. Mumaw, Coward (second on team in runs), Payton Hudson and Morgan Herndon, a ninth-grader who happens to be hitting .346, also play big roles.
"We're all capable," Coward says. "We've had the experience, all played travel ball, and we all have determination. There's like no No. 1 player on the team. Jordan's the best pitcher, but I can say that because I'm the other pitcher!"
It's all very enjoyable, for a program where that wasn't always the case and just in the nick of time for its lone senior.
"It feels great to get some wins," Dana Mumaw says. "Better late than never."