The last few seasons have had more than its share of upheaval for the North Fort Myers High School baseball team. New head coach Mark Rose is trying to bring some stability to the program.
Unfortunately, with that comes growing pains. The result is a 3-10 record and a seat in the basement of the District 6A-11 standings.
Rose said the team is young, loaded with sophomores and juniors, with four senior starters. They have seen much of the waves that surrounded the team in recent years and have been looking for a fresh start, which they have achieved.
North Fort Myers baseball player Sergei Archipov delivers a pitch during last week’s baseball game against North Port.
"The kids have to learn a new system and a new way of coaching. The biggest thing is to get them to buy into winning," Rose said. "When you lose so much, you get used to it and accept it instead of fighting."
Among the veteran leadership are seniors John Candiano, Garrett Morgan and Clayton Glover. Younger players like freshman Danny Siebert, sophomores Jonah Bourque and R.J. Tejada and junior pitcher Payton Bourque are looking to bring this program to respectability.
North has not had a winning season, or double-digit wins, since 2006.
They seem to be getting the hang of it.
After losing eight of their first nine, the Red Knights rebounded for back-to-back wins over Cypress Lake and Lely and appeared to finally be headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, North Port cooled them off with a mercy-rule defeat before Cypress Lake gained revenge with a victory on Friday.
"We didn't score runs. When that happens, you can't win no matter who's on the mound. Last week we played with a little more confidence. Against North Port it was a non-district game and we may have come out a little flat," Rose said. "We sat on our heels and they took it to us."
The Red Knights have been trying to find a third pitcher to back up starters Peyton Bourque and Justin Morales. Freshman Justin Bethke had been working well in the third slot, but against North Port it was senior Sergei Archipov, who had thrown one inning this season and Rose felt he needed the work in a non-district situation.
The Bobcats scored in the first and quickly ran up his pitch count, forcing him out of the game in the third, when they scored two more runs. A sixth-run fourth blew the game open, which ended in the sixth on the mercy rule.
Glover had two hits for the Red Knights, who had five on a chilly, windy evening.
With the season at the midway point, Rose said his team is starting the turn the corner.
"We have to see what other people can do. We can't let them sit the whole season. This is high school and you have to let them play," Rose said. "I think we'll be fine."
This week's slate includes home-and-home games with Port Charlotte.