The Wesley Chapel High varsity softball program has never experienced a winning season — until now.
Years of futility were dotted by coaching instability and a dearth of talent, since the program began in 2007.
In the program’s first five years, the Wildcats went 1-15, 2-20, 2-21, 1-22 and 2-21. Ensuing years were likewise taxing, as the team went 5-14, 0-24, 2-22 and 7-17.
This season, however, is unlike any other.
The Wildcats — 13-5 overall, 7-3 district — are in the midst of a complete 180, under new head coach Steve Mumaw, and an influx of young standouts.
Besides one senior, the varsity squad consists entirely of freshman and sophomores.
While chockfull of underclassman, the newfound group has proven it can compete — and defeat — any opponent in District 7-6A.
That includes Land O’ Lakes (19-3) and River Ridge (13-5), two of the toughest teams in the Tampa Bay area.
Now enjoying a four-game winning streak, the Wildcats are arguably playing their best softball yet.
“It’s all the girls. When you have talent, it’s tough to mess that up,” said Mumaw, a former baseball coach and athletic director at the school.
And, the roster — top to bottom — is loaded with it.
Seven hitters in the regular lineup are batting .333 or better.
That includes sophomore catcher Neely Peterson, who’s pacing the team with a .459 average and .630 on-base percentage.
“I think we’re looking pretty good right now,” said Peterson, a verbal commit to Colorado State. “It’s very different than what it was in the past.”
The pitching staff, led by freshman ace Jordan Almasy (2.62 ERA, 90 strikeouts in 77.1 innings), has also proven vital to the program’s budding success.
“We’re just going to keep making progress,” said Almasy, a verbal commit to the University of Central Florida.
“We all pick each other up — it’s a team effort,” added sophomore third baseman Ashley Nickisher.
The team’s lone senior is Dana Mumaw, the daughter of Steve Mumaw.
She’s witnessed firsthand the program’s struggles in prior years. “It was tough,” she said, bluntly.
Yet seeing the team “come together” this season has been a memorable experience, in what has otherwise been a turbulent softball career at Wesley Chapel.
“I think from the first day on, we’ve developed and gotten better, especially with a bunch of new players,” Dana Mumaw explained. “I knew we were going to be pretty good, but I didn’t know if we were going to be this good.”
Being coached by her father has proven rewarding, too.
“I love having my dad as the coach,” she said. “It’s really great…and I learn so much from him.”
With four regular season games remaining, the attention soon will focus squarely on the district tournament, beginning the week of April 24. Should the Wildcats win or finish runner-up, they’d be making their first-ever appearance at regionals.
It would be a significant feat, considering the program had never even won a district tournament game until 2016, when they upset Pasco High.
“Our goal is to advance out of districts,” Steve Mumaw said, “and see what happens.”
“We’ve got something pretty special going on here,” he added.
Published April 12, 2017