Three county schools with eyes on the postseason will travel to compete in baseball tournaments this week.
Mosley, 12-1, coming off its first defeat of the season, will play in the South Orlando Spring Break Challenge. Bozeman, 10-2, which has compiled a 10-game winning streak, journeys to play in the Big Sun tournament hosted by Ocala Vanguard, and Rutherford, 7-4, fresh from hosting the Panama City Invitational, travels west for a tourney in Gulf Shores, Ala.
All three tournaments begin on Monday.
Mosley originally intended to compete in Alabama this week, but Coach Todd Harless said an opening occurred in Orlando and he jumped at the chance for the Dolphins to head south.
“We didn’t know much about the teams who would be playing in Alabama, they could have been very good, but every team in (Orlando) except us and one from Daytona Beach is an 8A school,” Harless said.
Harless said that Class 5A Mosley plays one game on Monday, the results of four contests used to seed teams for the following three days. From Tuesday through Thursday, it will take three consecutive wins to be crowned champion, but all schools are guaranteed four games.
The Dolphins are coming off their first loss of the season, 2-0 on Thursday to Father Ryan of Nashville, Tenn. Despite their lofty record, they have scored only two runs combined in their past three games.
“I think that loss yesterday might have been a blessing in disguise for our guys,” Harless said Friday. “We had a tremendous start to our season, and in losing we didn’t play that poor. The other team made some great defensive plays.”
Harless said that the defeat might also have taken some of the pressure off his ballclub stemming from a national No. 14 ranking.
“I was starting to see in some games where when things were going bad we were pressing,” he said. “Now we can refocus. I think it will be good. Now we know what we need to work on; our areas of concern.”
Harless has been pleasantly surprised with a pitching rotation headed by senior Andrew Deramo (6-0) that includes freshman Weston Bizzle, Austin Rogers and Ben Peters. He said the Dolphins recently experienced a tough stretch defensively, but sounded confident they would get back on track in the field.
The opportunity to see more solid pitching this week could pay dividends in late April and early May.
“Hopefully we’ll see some good pitching again,” Harless said. “I want that. What happens is that our kids will get used to seeing that” the farther they advance in the playoffs.
Bozeman coach Jeff Patton has the same objective when the Class 1A Bucks play at Vanguard. They are the lone Rural Classification school in the tournament that includes Gainesville, Forest, Winter Park, Bayshore and host Vanguard in addition to others.
“We played (4A) Marianna last night, we wanted to go ahead and play a bigger school to get us ready,” Patton said. “We’ll see some better pitching, that’s the big thing for us and see teams that put a little stress on our pitchers.
“They’ll be teams with a more complete lineup. We want to measure ourselves against that.”
Bozeman opens against Bradenton Bayshore 3:30 p.m. CDT Monday. The Bucks are no strangers to playing larger schools having started their season against Mosley, Rutherford, Arnold and Bay.
“We know we can play with the bigger boys,” Patton said. “But playing teams we’re unfamiliar with kind of helps, too.”
Rutherford coach Jon Hudson said that another chance to get in some extended innings is a big positive in a season thus far punctuated by shoddy weather.
The Rams will compete in four days of pool play beginning Monday, but should they advance to place games won’t participate as that could put them over the limit of regular-season games allowed by the FHSAA.
“Hopefully we’ll find out more about our depth in pitching and get more kids some at-bats,” Hudson said prior to meeting Jacksonville Mandarin on Thursday night in the final game of the Panama City Invitational. “We’ve played only 10 games and we started the season five weeks ago.
“With all the rainouts it’s hard to get into any rhythm. That’s why we’re playing these two tournaments.