Other Brevard County high school baseball coaches want to be Bob Doty this year.
The second-year Viera High head coach would seem to have the formula for success in 2013: eight starters returning, his top two pitchers back and the experience of last year’s 16-win season.
“We have the potential to be pretty good,” Doty said. “We’ve gotten better every year.”
That, of course, is the plan for building a program, and the Hawks won’t be the only talented team this season. Melbourne returns most of its pitching staff and talented position player, Carson Jackson. Rockledge has Florida-bound John Sternagel at shortstop and some young talent many programs would covet. Merritt Island’s tradition alone will give its team a chance to win plenty of games.
Several teams have new coaches. Former Hawks coach Jason Burchfield is at Palm Bay, two-time Mustangs state championship coach Chuck Goldfarb at Holy Trinity and former pro Jason Arnold at Satellite, among others.
Melbourne head coach Pete Donovan is eight wins from 400 in his career. His team was two wins from a state championship last May, and some of the key players are back. Jackson has been moved from the infield to centerfield, and catcher Jeff Korte could be the next in a line of top performers at catcher for the Bulldogs.
Holes — and questions — remain, however.
“We’re going to miss the three kids we lost,” Donovan said. “If we catch the ball and get any kind of pitching, we will be solid.”
The starting rotation of Jake Walsh, Luke Lorah and Gordon Reed gives the Bulldogs plenty of potential for the pitching in that formula.
Doty expects a different challenge. His Hawks won plenty of low-scoring games last year, but he’d like to see some of that pressure off his pitchers.
“We’re decent on the mound and a pretty good defensive ballclub, but we want to be a good offensive team,” he said. “You can’t be good (defensively) every night out, so we’ve got to score some runs.”
Rockledge was a regional semifinalist last year but suffered key personnel losses. Sternagel’s return, influx of talent from a 15-1 junior varsity team and three freshmen off the summer’s Little League championship team offer hope.
“Hopefully, I’d put us and Merritt Island in a similar category, because both of us graduated six or seven starters,” said coach Greg Clayborne, himself within shouting distance of 400 wins. “We’ve got young guys, talented youngsters, and the rest we’ll have to figure out.”
That will be the plan for many. District tournaments are more than two months away.