By Kyle LoJacono
One of the budding rivalries in Pasco County is between Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch high schools.
The cross-town programs are separated by less than 9 miles, allowing ample opportunity for the Wildcats and Bulls players to brag about victories and stew over defeats.
Mumaw and Spencer Bowles experienced the rivalry while playing baseball at Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch, respectively, but have put their old allegiances aside since becoming Saint Leo University Lions.
“There was that rivalry in high school, but we really were friends,” said Mumaw, a freshman left-handed pitcher. “A lot of the kids went to both schools at some point. Yes, in high school the one team we wanted to beat each year was Wiregrass and I’m sure they felt the same about us, but it’s nothing that has carried over to Saint Leo. After all we’re teammates now.”
Both players were named Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) all-stars as seniors, becoming the first baseball players from their respective high schools to earn such an honor. The pitching/catching combo first met while playing for the New Tampa Predators AAU team while in middle school.
Mumaw played at Wesley Chapel for four years, but Bowles, a redshirt freshman catcher, only experienced the rivalry for two years. He attended Wharton High until his junior year when he moved north of the Hillsborough County line.
“Whenever I had to face Brandon in a game I tried to put the ball in play and do something productive,” Bowles said. “I just didn’t want to strike out because that would be embarrassing to strike out against our rival school.”
Mumaw had a similar approach to pitching to Bowles.
“If it was close when we were playing Wiregrass he was one of the kids I didn’t want to see come up to bat,” Mumaw said. “He’s a good hitter and a good defensive catcher too. He was one of those guys we talked about pitching around because he was a good hitter.”
Mumaw said he was happy to see a familiar face wearing Saint Leo colors when he attended his first practice.
“I knew he was a redshirt freshman and I was a true freshman, so we’d be spending a lot of time together the next four years,” Mumaw said. “He’s one of those catchers who is easy to pitch to because he figures you out fast. He figured out my pitches fast and we’ve worked on what we’d need to do to get hitters out.”
Mumaw said he already has complete confidence pitching to Bowles, knowing he will catch or block anything he throws.
“When you’re pitching there are times you’re trying to throw one in the dirt, and you have to trust the catcher to block it,” Mumaw said. “When you have confidence in your catcher you can just focus on executing the pitch.”
Bowles has already seen major improvements in Mumaw during the first few weeks of his college career.
“He’s pretty easy to catch in that he hits his spots,” Bowles said. He then added, “He’s learning how to pitch and not just throwing the ball. He’s learning how to shake off when he doesn’t agree and find the right pitch.”
The two will get to spend even more time together this summer as they travel to Niagara Falls, N.Y. to play on the same summer league team.
“I think it’s going to be a good experience for both of us,” Bowles said. “I think it’ll be more than just teammates, but a friendship as we continue to play together.”
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