New leadership is emerging on the diamond at Coral Reef High School. Tony Meilan is stepping in as the varsity head coach after the barracudas went 6-16 last season. Meilan comes to The Reef after spending 10 years coaching at Belen. While at the Jesuit school, he was named coach of the year twice and led the team to two sate championship games. Now, he hopes he can bring over that experience and start a new reign of success.
“The last coach gave me heads-up about each guy and I was always watching them play last year,” says Meilan. “Their structure is really good here. The kids come out and always work hard and want to win. My goal is to get all the seniors to play in college. Their attitude in the classroom is really good so other than that they just have to play ball.”
Five seniors return to the team along with two juniors set to start on the mound. Meilan says the team’s biggest strength going into the season is a solid pitching staff. He believes having underclassmen lead the bullpen will allow them to acquire the necessary skills to come back even stronger in the 2016 season. For now, he wants the team to focus on hitting the ball and advancing on the bases.
“Our team isn’t a home run power team,” says Meilan. “We really need to get those bunts down and somehow get the guys from second to third and from third to home plate. They have to get better at that. If we do that with consistency it will all work out.”
The Barracudas play in one of the most competitive districts in the state. Meilan is confident that if his team can get past their district counterparts they’ll be able to compete at a regional level. After practicing for just three months, he says he’s impressed with the adjustments the boys have already made.
“I feel really good going into this year,” says Meilan. “You see things from last year and you see things from the past but these guys are really good players. I think if we do what we have to do on the mound and hit the ball and catch the ball we’ll be fine. The errors and the walks are what kill every team. If we can cut down on that it’s going to be a good year.”
Coral Reef has two starting players on the roster that stand out from other teams in district 8A-16. Juniors Fernando Marquez and John Stathopulos lead the pitching staff going into the season. With Marquez pitching lefty and Stathopulos pitching right, senior Samuel Sanchez says these two players will get them far.
“We’re confident in our junior pitchers,” says Sanchez. “We want the ball in their hands and we have senior pitcher Anthony Sola to close the games out. Our coach has given us the opportunity to know what we’re expecting this season. We expect our starting pitchers to do their jobs and help us win.”
The Barracudas are coming back to the field with more upperclassmen on the roster than last year. Sanchez says between a new coach and veteran athletes, they won’t be making the same mistakes.
“This year we have more leadership so all the players know what we’re playing for,” says Sanchez. “We know what we want and we know how to win the game. Last year we came so close to winning a lot of games but we fell short in the end. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to finish them out.”
Meilan says that between his junior pitchers, Sanchez in left field, Jose Rojas in center and Sola as a closing pitcher, he’s expecting the boys to make major improvements over last season.
“We want to try to get into the playoffs,” he says. “We want to get in there and get as far as we can. It’s tough because it’s anybody’s game. Anyone can win and anyone can lose. Our goal is to get to that next level and try to go on from there.”