The Bears make history as they go undefeated to win the state championship
Winter Springs High School softball coach Mark Huaman expected his team to be good this past season, but no one could have predicted that the Bears would actually be spectacular.
Winter Springs did something that no other Seminole County softball team has ever done, finishing the season undefeated with a 31-0 record – capped by the school’s first state softball championship. But that’s only part of the story. To win the state title, the Bears defeated the top-ranked team in the country, Bradenton’s Lakewood Ranch High, which was also 30-0 going into the Class 8A title game.
“I talked to a couple of newspaper writers, and they couldn’t find any undefeated softball team ever in Florida,” says Coach Huaman, who just completed his 20th year as Winter Springs High’s coach. “It’s really difficult in softball to run the table like that. But we really only had, like, six flat innings the whole year. The kids were very, very consistent, they always played well, and they always came through.”
That determination started at the end of the previous season, when local rival and eventual 2018 state champion Hagerty High School eliminated the Bears in the region semifinals. Winter Springs had beaten the Huskies two games earlier to win the district championship.
“Our motto was Unfinished Business,” Coach Huaman says. “They wanted to finish doing what they knew they could do. They worked so hard in the classroom; they worked so hard on the field. They didn’t get into trouble. There was no drama. When good things happen to good kids who work hard, it’s wonderful. I’m just so proud of these kids.”
Leading the way all year was senior center fielder Kaley Mudge, a Florida State University signee who was Seminole County’s Athlete of the Year for softball. She was also one of five seniors on the team who actually missed their graduation ceremony because it was on the same day as their semifinal game against Orange Park’s Oakleaf High School.
Coach Huaman discussed the situation with Winter Springs principal Pete Gaffney, and they came up with a plan. The school held a special graduation ceremony for the five senior players the following week, complete with caps and gowns, speeches, and a reception afterward. More than 200 people were in attendance, including Dr. Walt Griffin, SCPS superintendent, several School Board members, and about 20 teachers.
Kaley, shortstop Briana Driscoll, catcher Destiny Colgate, first baseman/pitcher/outfielder Taylor Thomas, and first baseman Kierstein Adams were able to put on their caps and gowns and receive their diplomas at the ceremony, after having led the Bears’ softball team to its historic victory.
“The seniors had so much to do with this team’s success, starting with Kaley Mudge and Taylor Thomas,” Coach Huaman says. “This group of kids was so humble and so team-oriented. They never used the word ‘I’ unless they were saying, ‘I just want to help my team.’ It was all about ‘we.’ They all bought into that, and they believed in each other.”
In addition to his seniors, including left fielder Celia Burgos, Coach Huaman also gave credit to assistant coaches Eric Birle and Erin Wolfe, as well as the student body, administration, faculty, parents, and the Winter Springs community. So many of the team’s supporters made the trip to Vero Beach to watch the Bears in the championship game.
To lead her team over Lakewood Ranch, junior pitcher Aynslie Furbush allowed just one hit while striking out four and walking just one batter. Winter Springs scored all three of its runs in the fourth inning.
“It was such a team effort,” Coach Huaman says. “These kids were just awesome.”
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