The Wesley Chapel High School varsity softball program, coming off its best season in school history, will look to continue its recent string of success under new leadership.
Bill Hoopes, who runs the Tampa Bay-based Florida Firecrackers U16 travel softball team, last month was named the program’s head coach, replacing first-year coach Steve Mumaw.
In a public Facebook post dated Sept. 21, Hoopes wrote:
“This is an amazing school with a strong program that I look forward to building up even more over the years to come.
“Could not be more excited for this chance and opportunity to continue to make an impact on the game I love and helping these young ladies chase and achieve their dreams…”
A well-known name in the travel ball scene, Hoopes, also a teacher at Chasco Middle School in Port Richey, this past season guided the U16 Florida Firecrackers to a No. 3 ranking in the state and No. 67 in the nation, according to U.S. Softball Club rankings. Additionally, several of Hoopes’ travel players have landed scholarships and committed to Division I softball programs, including River Ridge High’s Jessica Bryson (University of Louisiana-Monroe) and Teah Steel (Alabama State University), and Mitchell High’s Alex Hare (Alabama State University).
Mumaw, meanwhile, guided the historically struggling Wildcats program to surprising feats in his lone season as head coach.
In 2017, the Wildcats achieved its first winning season, going 19-7, with a 7-3 mark in district play, and an appearance in the Class 6A regional semifinals.
The breakout campaign also featured a nine-game winning streak, including a shutout regular season victory over Land O’ Lakes High — the eventual Class 6A state champions.
In an email to the The Laker/Lutz News, Mumaw explained he decided to step down as softball coach, citing logistical issues between teaching at one school —Centennial Middle School in Dade City — and organizing practices at another — Wesley Chapel High.
Until Mumaw took over, the Wildcats softball program, which started in 2007, experienced years of futility, due to coaching instability and a dearth of talent.
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 program went 5-14, 0-24, 2-22 and 7-17.
Mumaw, also a former athletic director and baseball coach at Wesley Chapel High, credited the team’s rapid turnaround last season on its young, talented nucleus.
“It’s all the girls. When you have talent, it’s tough to mess that up,” Mumaw told The Laker/Lutz News in April.
Outside of one senior, the 2017 roster exclusively featured a collection of promising freshman and sophomores.
In addition to then-freshman ace pitcher/University of Central Florida commit Jordan Almasy (2.59 ERA, 130 strikeouts in 116.1 innings), the 2017 squad consisted of eight .300-or-better hitters.
Though many of those impact players are expected to return, some, however, have been redistricted to Cypress Creek Middle-High, which will force the new coaching staff to find added depth elsewhere.
One of those players certainly missed is catcher/Colorado State University commit Neely Peterson, arguably the Wildcats’ top all-around hitter last season.
Peterson, now a junior at Cypress Creek, paced the team in batting average (.443) on-base percentage (.566) and slugging percentage (1.207), and tied for the team lead in home runs (three) and RBIs (20).
Besides weathering key personnel losses, the new-look Wildcats have the ever-difficult task of again competing in District 7-6A, made up of perennial powerhouses Land O’ Lakes, coached by Mitch Wilkins, and River Ridge, coached by Kurt Goluba.
And, both programs are expected to compete at a high level again this season, with relatively minimal turnover.
Land O’ Lakes graduated four seniors — outfielder Jessie McCallister (.358 batting average), outfielder Lexi Turner (.293), outfielder/third baseman Justine Daniels (.280) and outfielder Maddie Burgett (.250) — while River Ridge graduated just one — catcher Brooke Vescey (.381).
The new Wildcats coaching staff will have an information meeting on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. in the school’s media center, for anyone interested in spring softball.
Most of the Wildcats’ 2018 schedule has been set:
Feb. 13: at Academy at the Lakes
Feb. 16: Sunlake High School
Feb. 20: at Land O’ Lakes High School
Feb. 22 River Ridge High School
Feb. 27: at Pasco High School
March 1: Zephyrhills High School
March 5: Mitchell High School
March 6: Anclote High School
March 8: Land O’ Lakes High School
March 13: at River Ridge High School
March 15: Pasco High School
March 20: at Zephyrhills High School
March 23: Palm Harbor Spring Break Tournament
March 24: Palm Harbor Spring Break Tournament
March 27: Anclote High School
March 28: York High School (Retsof, New York)
April 3: Academy at the Lakes
April 10: Wiregrass Ranch High School
2017 District 7-6A standings
- Land O’ Lakes High (9-2; 29-3 overall)
- River Ridge High (8-2; 16-9 overall)
- Wesley Chapel High (7-3; 19-7 overall)
- Pasco High (4-7; 7-11 overall)
- Zephyrhills High (3-7; 6-15 overall)
- Anclote High (0-19; 0-19 overall)
—Stats and information compiled using Maxpreps.com—
Published Oct. 4, 2017